Alicia Keys : Toronto Sears Theatre

Keys launches into 'Rock Wit U'. The inverse ratio of action to energy is quite startling.

It’s been a busy 12 months for Alicia Keys. The 20-something singer, having shot into the spotlight with a superb debut album and, more recently, having appeared in the A-list line-up of the ‘America: A Tribute To Heroes’ charity single, is now on the last night of the ‘Live Now’ tour with Maxwell. And despite Maxwell’s best intentions as headliner, tonight he’s secondary in the thoughts of this youthful, svelte crowd.

As a ordinary supporting cast take their places – including a small rapper or stage jester who looks as if he just fell off Slipknot’s turnip truck – Keys launches into ‘Rock Wit U’. The inverse ratio of action to energy is quite startling. When she does some silly skits with a cellphone during ‘How Come You Don’t Call Me’ or tries to work the stage she is utterly vulnerable, losing much of her charisma, and it’s apparent she’s still getting her performance feet wet. But when she’s stationary behind her keyboard, she’s captivating.

“I’ll be right back, I got to make a costume change,” she says, before swapping her black leather beret for the more recognisable fedora. It isn’t until the last third of her 75-minute set that the 5,000 or so onlookers see her full potential, teasing the audience with the opening notes of ‘Fallin’.

She ends the evening with a brief encore before heading offstage to rapturous applause. There’s a way to go yet, but with such a strong start the future bodes well for this unique talent.

Jason MacNeil