Alicia Keys lights up Jakarta stage

17 Aug

[Revision of the article published on The Jakarta Post,  Jakarta, Sun, 08/03/2008]

The U.S. neo-R&B singer Alicia Keys does not need fireworks to light up her modestly adorned stage. Instead, she blew Jakartan minds with her music and performance on Thursday evening.

The anticipation was high at the concert, titled the same as her latest album As I Am. However, one could not help but wonder if she was in the mood for playing.

She had launched a last minute complain on the inclusion of an Indonesian tobacco company as the sponsor of her first show in Indonesia, resulting on pulling down of the associated advertising materials. Worse, the first class section of the concert hall of the Jakarta Convention Center was half-empty. By now, she was already half-an-hour late.

The stage was simple, with nothing else but music instruments and two big screens on the sides. It was left empty when Alicia’s staff failed to warm up the fans before the start.

But wow! The darkness turned to colors and there she was, opening the night with her power-charged “Go Ahead” from her latest album. She was obviously in a good mood.

Clad in slinky red top and tight black pants, she moved around the stage looking fresh and fabulous and won over the crowd instantly.

The nine-time Grammy winner swished around the keyboard and synthesizer, whenever she was not busy dancing. She showed her fans how well-rounded she was — with good voice, good moves and good attitudes.

The next one-and-half hours filled with 15 chart-topping songs, combining fast and slow-paced songs, sending the audience ton a roller-coaster of unexpected highs.

After the initial high, the next song “You Don’t Know My Name” from her second album The Diary of Alicia Keys toned down the pace.

The pace was picked up again in the next song “Teenage Love Affairs” from her latest album. Accompanied by two female background singers, she danced to the sexy tune of the song.

Another one “Go Back There” from the same album gave similar effect.

As if to prevent people (especially the males) from getting too excited, she changed pace again and again, usually going to her piano to switch the mood.

At one point, the R&B princess asked, “I am just wondering is it okay if I play my piano for you?” which resulted in a very obvious yes.

When you thought she would go into traditional piano solo playing, she went into the song “Karma” starting with fast reggae-like music before proceeding to a modified big band style.

Indeed, almost every song reflected new arrangements, sometimes far from the original style. The original R&B arrangement has been replaced by reggae-like, or big band-like styles without overpowering the original rythyms.

That still left a few hit songs, like “Superwoman”, with less modification, leave the feeling of familiarity to the fans and letting them sing along.

Although she shows great talent at performing and arrangement, her greatest performance was still when she sang with her sultry voice at her piano, especially during the song “Why Don’t You Call Me”.

After the soulful “Fallin'”, her first single that topped charts worldwide, she repeatedly thanked Jakarta, said goodbye and disappeared backstage, leaving the audience’s jaw dropped to their chest in disbelief.

“That’s all? Where is “No One” (Alicia’s latest hit)?” a guy beside me howled.

Some people left before the rest started to chant “We want more” fueled by the band members on the stage. It got louder and louder. If it was her party trick, it worked wonders! Finally all were on their feet at last, including those who had been sitting for the whole evening looking cool.

Alicia reappeared on stage again with her “No One” — did she have a crystal ball looking into peoples minds? — welcomed by thundering roars of fans.

Lo and behold, she thanked the fans again and fled. The band members threw their towels as complimentary gifts to the crowd, but this time the fans refused to budge and shouted for more.

The same guy beside me said “It is impossible for her to end this without “If I Ain’t Got You” (a hit from the second album).”

Indeed she wouldn’t leave them hanging in despair. Soon after, the song was in the air and it was clear that their minds were connected.

The atmosphere was incredible. More fans’ cameras were now in the air recording her forming tiny stars in the darkness. Perhaps these comebacks were Alicia’s way of telling how people should appreciate something before it was gone.

Her voice was as clear and strong as when she started and she indeed left the best for last. This time she left gracefully, and turned to wave at her fans one last time before disappearing through the door.

They knew they could not ask for more. And it was already enough anyway, she had given them a night to remember.


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