Last week my neighbor gave me the distinct pleasure of seeing Alicia Keyes in concert at the Moody Center in Austin. We went to hear a beautiful voice, and we were dazzled. It was theater at its best: intricate sets, spectacular lighting and sound, choreography with beat, and all in a non-stop entertaining production.
Alicia Keyes is a gifted musician, classically trained in piano, with a wide voice range offering a variety of her songs. She was dressed in two costumes, similar in design, pants and a ballooning coat with a clever short top showing some skin. Her hair was the look of a Star Wars princess with a long thick braid decorated with gold shiny squares that sparkled whenever the light hit one of them. She had two tiny-braided interlocking, graduated circles falling onto her forehead from the top of the large braid. I felt her smile from the stage as it beamed out from her face with true joy.
Alicia moved easily around the stage in her elegant sneakers, with small stage sections jutting in two directions where she could reach the full audience. An attractive set of stairs climbed from one side providing a place for her to escape for her costume change. The light technicians were brilliant in creating shapes and intrigue when it was necessary to entertain the audience. Lasers shot colored triangles and pyramids in shapes on shapes, and created a futuristic feel to what Alicia was singing. It felt otherworldly.
Her songs were full, magnetic and dynamic. She had strong singer support with her band. Her large grand piano was on the main stage; then she rode up the elevator at the top of the stairs with a parlor upright piano, and her voice with the upright by herself was the clearest throughout the entire night. She was so active, she always stood to play her piano, impressive using her pedal! The bass guitar was loud much of the time. For the spectacle Alicia Keyes’ beautiful voice stood out and sometimes it was drowned out by the bass guitar.
I remember the last concert I saw before Covid. My 82-year-old aunt took several of us to hear Diana Ross. She was a fabulous, large personality and we heard all her songs. Everyone was on their feet singing and dancing. The Cheryl Crow concert many years earlier was very loud, but Cheryl’s music and voice were front and center. Both concerts put the audience smack dab in front of the singers.
Alicia creates in a time when the audience wants spectacle and entertainment formed around a talented performer. Her gifts were lost some of the time within the spectacle. Or maybe they were not. Maybe she is giving all present a new and thought-provoking experience that changes their lives. It certainly changed ours.