At the age of 31, Alicia Keys has already been dazzling audiences for well over ten years. Between her immense talents behind the piano and powerful voice she’s a dual threat, and her looks certainly don’t hurt. Recently, her new album, Girl on Fire has reignited her career and her performance on the Live on Letterman series reveals a woman with an overwhelming amount of confidence who only seems to get better with time.
In an R & B genre that has seemingly seen a renaissance of late, her place is undeniable. She is without a doubt one of the greatest performers of this century and continues to make a case to be considered amongst the greatest. In between songs at her Live on Letterman performance, Alicia Keys seemed a little humbled: “This is fun…I was just thinking, do you know how many incredible people have performed in this theater? I saw the wall (of photos) with Tina Turner, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Ella Fitzgerald was in here, the history, the her-story, the we-story is all up in here. Not to mention the Beatles and Elvis and stuff. So I really feel honored to be here tonight and touching these beautiful stages that have so much incredible history.” This was said just six days after closing out the 12-12-12 Benefit Concert at Madison Square Garden, which included some of the greatest living musicians today with artists such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel to name a few, and was seen by nearly two billion people. Her career is still in it’s infancy compared to some of the names mentioned here, yet she’s already playing the same stages and deservedly so.
Alicia Keys’ New Day
Keys opened her set with “New Day,” off of Girl on Fire, an upbeat number which much like many of the other songs on her new album is about empowerment. This track seems very radio friendly and at times sounds a bit like Rihanna is singing; it was also a great way of establishing a high energy level for this performance. From the pop-tinged opener, she went into another new track in the reggae-infused “Limitedless.” She also looped in some of the lyrics from “You Don’t Know My Name” in the chorus, reworking her earlier material to this new beat.
About ten minutes into the set, Keys finally situated herself on the piano bench in the middle of the stage for 2009’s “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart.” It didn’t take very long though for Keys to be back up on her feet crooning over the crowd for the latter half of the song getting the audience involved and taking control of the entire room. That’s not to say she didn’t have the crowd’s attention behind the piano; during tracks such as “If I Ain’t Got You” it’s difficult to fathom how much emotion is being released simultaneously through both her fingers and her voice.
If you had tuned into the 12-12-12 Benefit Concert last week, you may already know that Alicia Keys has a deep affinity for the place where she was born and can take some credit for New York’s most recently adopted anthem, “Empire State of Mind.” Like a true New Yorker, Keys has a tremendous amount of pride for the city, and the power that this song has seemed to absorb is astonishing. Hearing this song in one of the city’s most storied venues only seemed to enhance the experience.
The 50 minute set was closed with another anthem in the title track of Keys’ most recent CD – “Girl on Fire.” This song has been floating around for just a few months now, but everybody in the Ed Sullivan Theater seemed to know all the words and were all too eager to sing along. While the lyrics of this song are rather simple, the repetition of the refrain – each time increasing in intensity, makes this an incredibly catchy tune that is sure to stick in your head for a while. With her band and singers playing an extended instrumental reprise of the song, Alicia Keys graciously exited the stage on a high note.
By Jesse Zryb
OurVinyl | Senior Writer