Sade : Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl

Call the babysitter! Sade's in town!

Oh, to be a babysitter on a night like tonight! As the legions of station wagons and S.U.V.’s spew out a crowd of thirty-somethings into the cool summer evening you realize that across the Los Angeles basin, there are a lot of teenagers sitting in front of big screen TVs, making bank. As little Tommy is tucked in bed at home, his parents are indulging in ‘a special night out’ – dressed to the nines, with picnics and champagne, for an evening under the stars watching their favorite British chanteuse.

Seventeen years on from the release of Sade’s debut, and it seems like the same people who bought ‘Diamond Life’ are still devotees. And as the sun sets over the Hollywood Hills, unveiling an azure night sky, dotted with blinking stars, it’s immediately obvious why.

As Sade steps out on to the stage, she instantly captures the hearts of the crowd. Still looking stunning, she exudes a magnetism that draws them into her spell. It’s very simple – no choreographed dance routines, no pyrotechnics – just Sade herself. The voice. Oh, and a torrent of hits. Starting with ‘Cherish the Day’, they come one after another: ‘Your Love is King’, ‘No Ordinary Love’, ‘King of Sorrow’, ‘Is it a Crime?’

With her endearing natural allure, Sade charms the audience. She shimmies across the stage with the backing singers, reliving some old Motown dance moves. It only takes 2 songs before Sade kicks off her shoes, performing the remainder of the show barefoot. During ‘Jezebel’ she tries to create a sense of intimacy, sitting on the edge of the stage, with the band clustered about her. As difficult as it may be to create a jazz club atmosphere in an outdoor amphitheater, Sade gives it a shot. And she seems genuinely humbled by the crowd’s ecstatic response. She hugs a lucky few who rush to the front with flowers and gifts in hand.

‘Smooth Operator’ comes with a warning. “He’s out there”, she says. “He could be sitting next to you. Don’t go home with him tonight”. The crowd roars. Although songs like ‘Immigrant’, with its shuffling trip-hop beat, from Sade’s ‘Lover’s Rock’ album are met enthusiastically, it’s the hits that the crowd has come for. They sing along to ‘Sweetest Taboo – they know all the words. But it’s to be expected when you’ve been driving in your Volvo for the last fifteen years listening to the records over and over.

As the show winds down, the crowd spills out into the streets, beaming ecstatically. For these people, it was a glorious two hour escape away from their homes, their families, their suburban lives, into another world. A world, for them, that’s as sweet as cherry pie.

Jason Reynolds