There's a mighty fine line between being a musical prodigy and simply coming across as precocious...
Alicia Keys knows the value of putting on a show. Despite her music being the kind of ‘proper’ R&B that gets people who care about great musicianship and authenticity excited, the evening kicks off with the backing singers trilling ‘Alicia Keys to the tune of Bach’s [I]’Toccata and Fugue in B minor'[/I] (you know, the organ one that goes ‘da-da-da-DAH!’). It finishes, to cries of ‘Booom!’ from the garage-glam crowd, with what is obviously Alicia‘s party piece – a straight run through the Fugees’ version of ‘Killing Me Softly’
. In between, we get about half ofAlicia‘s excellent ‘Songs In A Minor’ album and a whole lot of slick chat.
It’s a rich mixture, but with a rather strange aftertaste. The fact that Alicia Keys is just 19 is undeniably impressive – she writes her own songs, sings superbly and is a fine pianist to boot. But call us old and sad – there’s a mighty fine line between being a musical prodigy and simply coming across as precocious. It’s annoying to be lectured on relationships between songs by someone who probably hasn’t even progressed beyond fingers and tops, as the presence of a few hecklers suggests. Amid a long, obviously scripted rap about what happens when your boyfriend’s cell phone rings and you wonder who he’s talking to, someone yells ‘The IRS’!
To Keys‘ credit, she takes it with grace. And there are, of course, the tunes to soothe the audience when it all starts getting a bit Jerry Springer
(well, ‘Trisha’). Expertly remoulded and expanded upon by the inevitably drum-tight band, they revisit the spirit of wide-eyed, experimental mid-Seventies soul but cunningly prune its excesses (the old-skool spag-out that ruins ‘Falling’ aside). ‘Rock Wit U’ recasts Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ordinary Pain’ into strutting, Noughties funk, ‘Jane Doe’ , heralded by Alicia Keys
swapping her flat cap for a topper, slinks past in a show of total confidence and ‘Girlfriend’ offers everyone out for a gentle tongue-lashing. It’s at moments like this where Alicia justifies the more ‘look at meeeee!’ aspects of the rest of it. Dane Bowers was so impressed he spontaneously lost two stone.