Alicia Keys/John Legend
REVIEW ROSS McRAE
While most female performers who can play arena-sized venues seemingly try to outdo each other with bells and whistles, Alicia Keys is all about making the music the star attraction.
On Thursday, the first night of the Australian leg of Keys' Set the World on Fire tour, the 14-time Grammy Award winner sassed her way on to a sparse stage set in a sexy form-fitting jump suit and proved she is one of the most exceptionally talented live performers in the world. She can win over a crowd without the need for numerous video and dance interludes or costume changes (take note Beyonce and Rihanna).
From her use of pianos and drums to her soaring live vocals, the 32-year-old has the soul and musical ability not seen since the likes of Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.
Kicking off with the high-energy rock soul of Karma from her second album, 2003's The Diary of Alicia Keys, New York-born Keys brought the 9000-plus crowd to their feet as she worked the stage flanked by a troupe of nondescript dancers (nondescript, not through lack of talent, but due to Keys' all-encompassing stage presence).
Moving to her beloved grand piano, Keys had the audience enraptured with her phenomenal live interpretations of songs from her five albums.
Tears Always Win was classic Motown, while a moving Listen to Your Heart mixed gospel and soul for an emotionally rousing performance.
The crowd went wild as Keys performed with gusto one of her biggest Australian hits, A Woman's Worth, while her 2001 breakthrough single Fallin' closed the 100-minute show's first half in triumphant style.
After a refreshingly short interval where her backing singers took centrestage briefly, Keys worked through the second half of her show, effortlessly moving through her extensive back catalogue of hits such as No One, If I Ain't Got You and recent single Girl on Fire.
Returning to the stage for her encore in her only costume change, Keys sparkled and seemed genuinely pleased to be in Perth as she belted out her inspirational, life-affirming duet with Jay Z, Empire State of Mind.
No recording can recreate the magic of Keys' majestic live interpretations of her songs, and her alluring, intimate performance reaffirmed that a pop concert can be about more than just a soulless audiovisual spectacle.
Earlier in the evening, John Legend proved a hit support act as he thrilled the crowd with his soulful performance while his current single All of Me, which looks set to top the Australian singles charts today, had the women swooning.