Sade: … It’s 8:23 p.m., and I’m sitting in the upper seating area of the C——– P——- at Concord in section 205, row EE, seat 116. Ankita’s beside me in seat 115. In front of us is a jumbo ginger ale and a packet of G—– B—— garlic fries.
We heard three songs (“Strength, Courage and Wisdom,” “Brown Skin” and “Video”) from opening act India.Arie at a distance, waiting for the crowd ahead of us to thin out a little, waiting to get our tickets torn in two at the entrance, waiting in line for food.
It’s a replay of last year, when Sue Shor, Jeanne Fogler, Ankita and I went down to Villa Montalvo to hear Cassandra Wilson and wound up missing opening act Olu Dara. (gulp Sorry, India. Sorry, Olu.)
The P.A. is playing the kind of soulful funk and folk oldies I remember reading that she liked to listen to (“Before I Let Go,” “Low Rider,” “Use Me”) in a December 1992 Details interview, as well as the stuff Sade probably bumps nowadays (“Umi Says”).
Ankita: (looks at watch on wrist, ponders punctuality) I thought she was English.
George: (plays the race card; subtly alludes to C.P.T.) Does that mean she’s not a person of color here?
The P.A. plays “Got to Give it Up.” It’s 8:55 p.m. Behind me, a brief dialogue unfolds:
Person Behind Me: You got your lighter?
Other Person Behind Me: Yeah, man.
Person Behind Me: I got five on it.
At 9 p.m. sharp, the lights go down. About sixteen bars of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Three Little Birds” plays over the P.A. as the band assumes its places. A minute later, silhouetted against a thin white screen from behind, they strike up the first song, “Cherish the Day.”
The screen disappears. Sade steps into the spotlight. She’s wearing a champagne-colored cheongsam. Her hair is pulled back. She’s flossing the big gold hoop earrings.
Ankita: (whispers) Whenever she shows her butt, everyone has a collective orgasm.
George: (*too busy looking at Sade showing her butt to listen*)
The band launches into the second song in an evening of pre/present/post-coital classics, “Your Love is King.” Sade continues to wiggle her butt. I continue to watch. It’s lordosis as hypnosis, and you knooow thiiiiiiissssss.
Next: “Somebody Already Broke My Heart.” The huge video screen behind the stage displays a slow-motion waterdrop hitting a flat surface. The drop’s splash is synchronized to the synth hit on the refrain’s 6th beat. Like many live-concert tricks, it’s cool the first couple of times and annoying every other time after. I tune it out and watch Sade press her left hand against her ear, blocking out very brief episodes of buzzing on the microphone, the kind that sometimes flip into feedback (but, in this case, don’t go there), and trying not to go flat (and succeeding). The song’s last minute or so is graced by chanted verses from “Never As Good As the First Time,” and melismatic tenor tones from one of the two backup vocalists top off the tank nicely.
The stage lights go deep red, and the band begins “Cherry Pie.” Pilchard lips, I think to myself, recalling that Details interview.
Ankita: (exasperated) All the cheering and clapping makes what she’s saying in this song sound irrelevant.
The song’s high notes seem hard on Sade. The corners pinch. I can see her thinking as she sings, shift gears on her vocal instrument in order to duplicate the original version’s studio gloss. (interior monologue It’s been almost nine years since “Love Deluxe” came out, George. Can you cut your girl just a micron or two of slack? Could you do that? Thank you!)
Next: “Every Word.” The film snippet playing on the video screen behind the stage displays six words — “Love is what the word was” — and finally I know what the sampled voice under the original song was saying.
Next: “Smooth Operator.” As bass player Paul S. Denham takes his solo, I make the sign of the devil’s horns with one hand and mosh my head up and down a few times. While I do so, Sade makes her way to the back of the stage and waves her arms to the beat with those angular, bullfighter-with-invisible-cape moves.
Next: “Jezebel,” “Kiss of Life,” “Slave Song” (notable for a black-and-white film showing pitching and rolling sea waves), “The Sweetest Gift,” “The Sweetest Taboo,” “Lovers Rock,” “Immigrant Song” (notable for a black-and-white film showing young men of apparently African descent, dressed neatly in mid-20th century finery and standing nicely for the camera), “Paradise” (introduced oddly by a bit of musique concrete that sounded like whirring helicopters), “King of Sorrow” (which manages the neat trick of having the visual — the full-length video of the song — upstage the live musicians playing and singing before the audience), “No Ordinary Love” and “By Your Side.”
First encore: “Flow” and “Is It A Crime.” Sade changes clothes. She wears the hell out of a pale pink shirt with very small ruffles all over. The shirt has a Qiana-wide collar and cuffs with simple metal-bar cufflinks. It’s open to the third button, and a black bra and very good posture join forces to serve up a tasteful bit of ta-ta-ra-boom-di-ay. Her hair’s unpinned, hanging over the left side of her face all Veronica Lake-ish. Oh, almost forgot: she’s also wearing tight black pants. Her belly button, sole proof of her human origin, moves from side to side as she stalks the stage. The spotlight scurries after her; the audiences eyes move ahead of it.
Second encore: “It’s Only Love That Gets You Through.” Sade and the backup vocalists stand front and center to deliver the slightly mawkish, sweet tune that closes “Love Deluxe.”
(Nice link turned up in the course of Googling up stuff: The Face, January 1983: “Britain�s first genuine home-grown sex symbol in a long time, her voice is as beautiful as her face, as sensuous as her mouth and as warm and seductive as a kiss.”)