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Alicia Keys
February 19, 2002
Verizon Wireless Theater - Houston, TX

Sara Samora
Senior Editor
Alicia Keys (picture by Belgie McClelland)

Alicia Keys, a child prodigy, Clive Davis' latest discovery, 2001's biggest explosion and Rollingstone's New Artist of the Year. She is a winner of MTV's Video Music Award, where she got a standing ovation, and who would have stole the night's show had Michael Jackson not shown up. She is also a winner of two American Music Awards, and perhaps she will collect a few more trophies to her mantel after next week's 44th Grammy Awards, there she is nominated for six awards and is listed as one of the performers.

Audiences who get to see her show days prior to music's biggest night will get an idea how well she holds it down artistically and musically on the stage.

Tuesday night’s audience consisted of male and female, of all ages and race. Many in clubbin' attire, many in semi-formal, others, such as myself, showed up in casual clothing.

All have one thing in common: to see Alicia Keys live.

Freak Nasty and DJ I-Rock warmed the crowd up, Freak dancing wildly to tracks I-Rock played, putting humor into the act.

"Come on Houston!" Freak yells. "If you want to see Glenn Lewis and Alicia Keys, you need to get out of your seats!" to this, the audience obeys.

Canadian singer Glenn Lewis then starts the show and sang a five-song set, which included his latest single, "Don't You Forget It," off his debut, "World Outside My Window."

"I love you Glenn!" a woman shouted. "I love you, too!" he responds. Another woman scream, "I love you more!"

"Seriously," he tells the audience, "I'm thinking about making this (Houston) my home."

Minutes after his set, the lights go out and the cheers began. Lights began to flash from behind the curtain. Soon, the curtain opens and there is Keys and her band, behind them was a background of animated brownstone.

Keys and her band went straight to work, starting with, "Rock Wit U."

Minutes into the performance, a telephone booth appears on stage as she began her extended cover of Prince’s "How Come You Don't Call Me." Near the end of the song, she gets up from her piano, and as she walks to the phone booth, a band member gives her a quarter. From there she enters the booth, and dial’s the number to her beau. "Hello?" a male voice answers, she then hung up the phone and walks back to her instrument. The audience roared in laughter.

She performed every track from her album, some she kept in medleys, some she played with out the band, and only it was she and the baby grand piano. Playing such songs as "Never Felt This Way," and "Butterflyz," and a cover of Donny Hathaway’s "Someday We’ll All Be Free." She also displayed her classical chops, playing Beethoven’s "Midnight Sonata" (I heard someone say, "It’s the ‘Aaah’ song." Another person began to sing, "Aaah.").

A battle surfaced between the backup singers and the band against DJ I-Rock and Freak Nasty. Each playing a song, performing tricks. I-Rock turning the tables as he takes off his shirt; Paul, the drummer banging the hell out of the drums.

"That’s not a trick," Freak Nasty says.

Keys sang another cover, this one Tevin Campbell’s "Shhh." This is where Keys gets sensual. A male dancer comes out, along with a white sheet pulled in front of them. A silhouette of them is displayed as they grind against each other. "I'd rather do you after school like some homework - am I gettin' you hot?" she coos.

She joins her dancers on stage for up beat numbers "Girlfriend," and "Jane Doe."

I found the dancing satisfactory; it was not integrated choreography or Janet Jackson style. However, if the girl wants to dance, let her dance. She has a show to run, and Keys does not want to just sit and keep it her and the piano, she wants to show that there is more to her than that. This is what separates her from others in the music industry. She has a sense of humor; she’s a natural performer. Hell, she can do it all!

There are many singers who sound different from their record and live. They may sound good on the record, but when it comes to being live, it’s a whole different story. Fortunately, Keys does not fall into this factor. She can sing, she can really sing. She doesn’t over do it nor does she does she holds back. She’s relaxes and lets the breathing take over, flexing her vocal chords well, with out straining her vocals.

Not only can she sing, she puts in the emotion. The soul is there, unlike, say Christina Aguilera who can sing the hell out of a note but one cannot hear or feel the emotion because she’s too distracted with trying to show off the voice.

Keys chose to play in theaters rather than arenas, so she can stay intimate with the fans, and this is an achievement that she accomplishes. She speaks to the fans, talks about heartbreaks, family, something that's worth nothing but is something: love.

Maybe all that comes out of her mouth is scripted, maybe not. If it is, you can’t tell. She sits down in between songs, on the steps or her seat from behind the piano.

"I love you Alicia!"

"Alicia!" people yelled.

"Can I talk to ya’ll for second?" she asked kindly.

She has a conversation with you, the audience as a whole. Before "Girlfriend," begins, she talks about a night with her man, going to Blockbuster, buying a jumbo size bag of Twizzlers, extra, extra buttered popcorn, and at home with her man, her head leaning on his shoulder. Only to be interrupted by a phone call. "He goes in the restroom and closes the door!" she exclaims. "I’m like," facial statement here.

It’s not fake, it’s not cheesy, nor is it force acting. She just goes with the flow.

After witnessing Alicia Keys live and in the flesh, perhaps there is one thing I wish Alicia would do: please, pretty, pretty please Alicia, release a live album soon. Until that happens, I will continue to listen to "Songs in A Minor," or maybe buy another one since it is getting scratched up...

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