Review by Jim Harrington
Photo by Jean-Philippe Dobrin
August 25, 2011
Sade’s back, which translates to one thing for thousands of local fans:
And, indeed, they came two-by-two to see the soulful vocalist and her band – both known by the single name Sade – on Thursday at San Jose’s HP Pavilion. Ladies dressed to kill accompanied by men doing their best to match during the first of three consecutive nights of Sade by the Bay.
They cuddled, held hands and slow danced while the 52-year-old Nigerian-born star unleashed a one-in-a-billion sexy voice that had been missing from the stage for far too long.
The vocalist’s descriptively titled Sade Live tour – which also stops tonight and Saturday at Oakland’s Oracle Arena – is her first road show since 2001’s Lovers Live Tour. That’s appropriate in a way, since seemingly nothing Sade ever does is rushed, but it also represents a near-eternity to make fans wait between outings.
“It took us a long time to find our way here,” she told the near-capacity house. “But we finally found you – San Jose. Thank you for holding out all these years.”
It wasn’t easy. But the payoff was well worth it. Sade’s two-hour show was a 22-song reminder of all the reasons fans feel in love with the music in the first place.
Following a solid opening set by R&B crooner John Legend, Sade and her eight band members took over the stage like a quiet storm, softly, yet convincingly sweeping away the approximately 12,000 fans with a bewitching take on the Grammy-winning title track to 2009’s “Soldier of Love.”
The ensemble, dressed all in black, was strikingly still at the start, almost as if the musicians feared that any motion might break the spell the singer was busy casting. The ploy worked and the spell would not be broken as Sade took fans through her catalog, moving from the very beginning (“Your Love is King” from the 1984 debut “Diamond Life”) right up to other “Soldier of Love” offerings, such as “Morning Bird” and “Bring Me Home.”
Fueled by retro tenor sax solos, which seemed to cry out “I Love the ‘80s” with every note, Sade delighted fans when she performed faithful renditions of the old Top 40 smashes “Smooth Operator,” “The Sweetest Taboo,” “Paradise” and “No Ordinary Love.” The only real “greatest hit” that was missing was “Never as Good as the First Time” – an inexplicable omission, given that she’s been away from the stage so long.
Those offerings, however, were far from the evening’s best. Sade reserved her most poignant vocal work, as well as delivered the most convincing arguments as to why she should be considered one of the top vocalists of the last 40 years, on the relatively more recent material.
After slipping into an elegant white evening gown – one of a handful of wardrobe changes she’d make during the evening – Sade played the part of torch singer to perfection as she wrapped her breathy, seductive voice around the new album’s “The Moon and the Sky” and “Morning Bird.”
Not many vocalists can get away with providing so little physical activity at the arena level. Then again few can claim a voice equal to Sade’s. And arguably no other artist comes close in terms of so quickly creating – then sustaining – such a gloriously mellow and warm vibe onstage.
The intoxicating spell would finally be broken, two hours after it’d first been cast, when Sade closed up shop following a thrilling encore of “Cherish the Day.”
In all, it was fitting end to a night well worth cherishing.
Set list from San Jose:
“Soldier of Love”
“Your Love Is King”
“Kiss of Life”
“Love is Found”
“In Another Time”
“Bring Me Home”
“Is It a Crime”
“Still in Love with You”
“All About Our Love”
“Nothing Can Come Between Us”
“King of Sorrow”
“The Sweetest Taboo”
“The Moon and the Sky”
“No Ordinary Love”
“By Your Side”
“Cherish the Day”