Sade at the Target Center, 8/9/11


Sade with John Legend

August 9, 2011
Target Center, Minneapolis

"I've been told Minneapolis is one of the coldest towns in the whole world," Sade told the Target Center crowd last night, only one song into her set. "I don't think so. I think you are one of the coolest towns. And from where I stand up here, you are also one of the warmest."

Warmth was a theme that carried through all two hours of Sade Adu's time on stage, as she seemed genuinely pleased to be reunited with Sade, the band, and performing for the room. Her voice sounded impeccable, only faltering maybe once or twice throughout the evening and otherwise sounding eerily perfect, and the band played with such exact precision and control that the whole thing would have sounded animatronic had it not been executed with such sultry passion and fire.

Adu is the kind of singer that specializes in restraint, hovering her low-register voice in the mid-level range to create a breathy, reedy coo that sometimes blends seamlessly into the instrumentation behind her. When she first emerged on stage, she was the image of restraint, too, her hair pulled tightly into a ponytail and her clothing black and conservative. But as the night wore on, she slowly let go, changing first out of her stilettos and into a white dress shirt and vest for "Smooth Operator," a hit she pulled out relatively early in the night, and then moving her voice to the forefront of the band's arrangement for "Jezebel," the first time she really belted out a high note. By the end of the set she had let her hair down and changed into a white satin gown and hot pink, lacy bra (a combo that only Sade could make seem classy), coming to center stage alone to sing the hearbreaking, harrowing ballad "Pearls" with a huge voice.

​That sense of build-up and dynamic prowess was further elevated by her fantastic band, who were set up on a series of hydraulic platforms that raised and lowered to showcase certain parts. The solos came few and far between and were far from gratuitous, making it all the more enthralling when the guitarist or saxophonist would step forward for a perfectly executed, lavish lick. And though the stage setup was simple, the performance was accompanied by tasteful sheaths of cloth and curtains that would change with the music's mood, as well as a series of both pre-recorded and live videos that were some of the most artful I had seen at an arena show.

The whole evening oozed class and timeless elegance, and despite the fact that there were quite a few empty seats at the Target Center (even with the Sade Groupon, something I didn't even know existed), Sade the artist and Sade the band made the concert seem intimate and full of life. Let's hope she doesn't wait another decade to hit the road again.

Personal bias: I like to spin Sade when I'm trying to relax, so of course the whole evening reminded me of being in a heated yoga class or bubble bath. But that turned out to be a good thing.
The crowd: Diverse, and skewing toward mid-30s and older.
Overheard in the crowd: "She's a stone cold fox."
Random notebook dump: I'm kicking myself for missing a large portion of John Legend's set, but I did make it in time for "Green Light." Legend had a full and back-up singers, and their live sound was similar to the vibe of last year's collaboration with the Roots, Wake Up!

Set list:

Soldier of Love
Your Love is King
Kiss of Life
Love is Found
In Another Time
Smooth Operator
Bring Me Home
Is it a Crime
Love is Stronger Than Pride
All About Our Love
Morning Bird
King of Sorrow
The Sweetest Taboo
The Moon and the Sky
No Ordinary Love
By Your Side
Cherish the Day

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