R Kelly / Sunshine Anderson / Syleena Johnson : New York Madison Square Garden
The full contradictions of Kelly are teased out in this barnstorming performance...
You can believe that this is going to be Kelly's last international tour cos he's pulled out the stops. During several costume changes the screens come alive with mini-interviews, a 'Shaft' spoof (featuring Ronald Isley) and Kelly cajoling his audience to scream louder. It's theatrical and entertaining. Everyone should do it.
By r&b standards, the stage set is impressive. A huge block launches three identical men high into the air. A voice booms "will the real R Kelly please stand up?" and he steps forth, pulling the mic from his crotch. Ticker tape rains down. P Diddy stands. Women scream and the Latin-by-way-of-the-Bronx groove of 'Fiesta' thunders. Kelly, a soul-boy, is a diverse talent, (having written hits for Michael Jackson, Aaliyah, Celine Dion, Jay-Z and Nas) but tonight he uses rap as his back-up (two emcees prowl the stage reciting his lines as six female dancers flit around).
Kelly thrusts his pelvis so many times he's in danger of groin strain; he warns that a shag with him will leave you bow-legged; he dry-humps two dancers; he impersonates Stevie Wonder; he lies on the ground, suggesting someone to 'sit on his face'. Then, in stark contrast he stops to talk about how the streets killed Tupac, Biggie (huge cheer), Marvin Gaye and his beloved mother. Her picture stares down from every screen during 'I Wish' and suddenly 'I Believe I Can Fly' makes more sense. The shift bears no relevance to the carnality that preceded it, but goes some way to explaining the contradiction between the song-man and the sex-smith.
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