When you consider the fact that Sade tours about as often as Halley’s Comet appears, the fact that I waited until the 11th hour to pick up a ticket to their latest tour seems kind of…well, foolish. After all, the venerable British band has retained their popularity for over a quarter-century now. That has to be due to something, right? Add in support from John Legend, one of the most consistent artists of the past decade in any genre, and you wind up with a can’t-miss bill. Right?
Right. The two acts did not disappoint on a night that certainly served as a date night for many (or the setup for some grown thangs happening after the show). Legend opened the evening by performing an hour’s worth of his hits to a more sizable crowd than would normally appear for a “support” act (let’s get real, Legend is certainly a headline draw at this point). Despite parts of the show that I felt were a wee bit too “Las Vegas”, the singer/pianist delivered some of the strongest vocals I have heard come from anyone I’ve seen live (and I’ve seen more than my share of concerts). Opening with a near-acapella version of labelmate Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and closing with a rollicking “Green Light”, Legend’s best moments were the intimate ones at the piano, including a spine-tingling run through the album track “This Time” and a simple, hushed version of his signature hit, “Ordinary People”. You could have heard a pin drop at the TD Banknorth Garden, that’s how sucked in everyone was. It reminded me that all this guy needs to be entertaining is his voice and his piano. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, I’ll get to see him in that kind of environment as well, although, really-no complaints about what I saw at all.
As for Sade, what can I say? The band-consisting of Andrew Hale, Paul Denman, Stuart Matthewman and a handful of supplemental background singers-was tighter than spandex. Helen Folasade Adu doesn’t appear to have aged since she was singing “Smooth Operator” in 1985 (actually, the band members don’t appear to have aged a whole lot, either). After a somewhat rocky start (a pitchy version of “Your Love is King” was the second song in the set), the band quickly gained their footing-peeling off hit after hit after hit. “The Sweetest Taboo”, “Smooth Operator”, “Is It a Crime?”, “No Ordinary Love”, “By Your Side”, “Pearls”, a medley of “Paradise” and “Nothing Can Come Between Us” (featuring background singer and longtime secret weapon Leroy Osbourne), it was an entrancing set made even more so by some brilliant staging, lighting and set design. You almost got the feeling at times that you were watching a Broadway show or a movie. An appreciative (and very soft-spoken) Adu made a point of taking care to introduce each band member in between the official set’s closing number (“By Your Side”) and the encore (an entrancing “Cherish the Day”), making for a very nice touch. As if the audience needed another reason to fall in love with her. You have to love someone who can keep an audience in the palm of their hand while barely raising the tempo above a simmer.
Have I gushed enough? Point blank: both acts know what it takes to entertain a crowd-to say the least. Maybe I’m being a little extra gushy due to the painful lack of R&B-ish shows here in Boston, but damn if the Sade/Legend tour isn’t one of the best bills I’ve seen in quite some time. Although a bit of intimacy is lost when you play in a ginormous arena (one reason I’ll never be able to commit 100% to these types of shows), the quality of the music and the energy from the crowd more than made up for it. If you find yourself anywhere else along the tour route, run-don’t walk-to your local ticket selling outlet and cop a pair. You won’t be disappointed.