Sunday, July 04, 2010

Alicia Keys unlocks pocket full of dreams at Essence Music Festival

Alicia Keys didn't need a cadre of dancers or an arsenal of special visual effects to capture the hearts of the crowd at her headlining concert Saturday at the 16th Essence Music Festival. All it took was her powerhouse laser beam voice soaring through a strong collection of hit anthems and her face beaming from beneath a mound of shoulder-length curls.
After actress Jada Pinkett Smith introduced her about 25 minutes past midnight (the program was running nearly an hour late), Keys launched into Love Is Blind from her 2009 album The Element of Freedom and kept the intensity steady and the mood uplifting all the way through to show-closer No One an hour later.
Keys, who recently announced that she was pregnant, hid her baby bump beneath a roomy emerald green-and black dress but couldn't disguise her pleasure in performing before the loyal, but less-than-capacity crowd.
Switching frequently between several types of keyboards (including a baby grand piano and a strap-on electronic keyboard), she worked her way though signature tune Fallin', Diary, Like You'll Never See Me Again, Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart and a dozen other inspirational torch songs. For Till You See My Smile she climbed atop the baby grand and sang while reclining, leading an "oooh oooh'' sing-along on the chorus.
Current hit Empire State of Mind Part 2, played against a video backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, illuminated the affection that New Orleans has for New York and earned her some of the loudest applause of the night.


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