It was a grand homecoming for one of New York’s most beloved divas. Along with R&Bs reigning prince, Ne-Yo, and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, Alicia Keys rocked a sold-out Madison Square Garden for the last show of her As I Am tour.
Sparks took the stage as patrons still trickled in, but sang like she was closing the show. Dazzling in a flowing pink dress and heels she sashayed and shimmied through her songs “One Step At A Time” and “Heartbreaker.” With no Chris Brown in attendance she belted out her hit “No Air” with assistance from the audience. Chris is a nice touch but you barely missed him with Sparks’ powerful alto.
A little after 8pm a line of dancing girls in silver shorts and top hats pranced out to a brassy, Go-Go beat. Their precision display of legs and hair commanded so much attention that you almost didn’t notice when Ne-Yo slinked out onto the stage. Decked out in a black top hat and tails he snapped the audience out of the dancer’s trance with his own fancy footwork as “I Just Can’t Stop” got his party started. Move after move he made the case for Micheal Jackson getting royalty checks from himself, Chris Brown, Omarion, Justin Timberlake and Usher. But Ne-Yo was entertaining nonetheless, at one point wrapping one of his dancers around his waist like a belt without missing a beat.
The in-demand songwriter kept the audience on its toes the entire time with a mix of nostalgia (doing tributes to both Marving Gaye and Jodeci) and guest appearances. Fabolous came out to screams to perform “You Make Me Better” and Rihanna was resplendent in a sequined baby doll dress during their duet “Hate How Much I Love You.” After his last costume change Ne-Yo ended his Top 40 set with “All Because of You.”
Alicia Keys started her headlining performance with a mini-movie starring Cedric the Entertainer as a pastor preaching of “star-making.” A rotating piano spun from the back of the stage to reveal Keys in skintight pants, a black leather vest and glittery pumps. Surprisingly Alicia proved to be quite nimble as she steped with her dancers through songs like “Ghetto Story” and “Teenaged Love Affair.” But fans of Keys don’t come to her shows expecting gymnastics.
“They told me to take it off a little more, shake it a little more…” Keys told the audience during a brief interlude. “And I do when I want to, but I wanted to play my piano.”
Alicia gave her fans just what they wanted as she tinkled through “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” evoking screams of approval as she adlibbed about text messages and ringtones. She even took one dramatic pause to talk to herself, work out her issues and held the note on “caaall” hostage until the audience was on its feet.
Keys was clearly on her A game as she sang “Superwoman,” “Unbreakable” and draped herself across the top of a piano and played “Diary” upside down.
She disappeared into the back of the stage on a gliding piano and reappeared on the upper catwalk in a silver vest top like the black one she started the show and sent her voice to the back of the hall during “Karma,” “A Woman’s Worth,” “Falling” and “No One.”
For her encore a white piano emerged from the runway stage and she closed out with a rousing rendition of “If I Ain’t Got You.”
On the last stop of her tour Alicia Keys gave the Big Apple one of her strongest performances and the city that never sleeps was happy to party late with a hometown favorite.
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