Sade in Concert

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It has been an entire decade since anyone has had the opportunity to experience a live concert experience with Sade Adu, the leading lady of smooth jazz music and the lead vocalist of the Grammy Award-winning English group Sade. There has been much anticipation building up to Sade’s concert for many years, especially for listeners of the relaxing chill-out radio music station 94.7 FM, the Wave. Sade’s music is truly timeless, and songs from their 1984 debut album “Diamond Life” sound as fresh and modern as if they were just recorded this year. The three filled to capacity stadium shows in August at the Staples Center were extremely exciting for the very lucky music fans catching a rare live stage performance from this legendary and beloved performer.

The first song performed, “Soldier of Love,” is also the title track of her 2010 studio album, which immediately rose to the top of the charts upon its release. Adu and her band members were all dressed in black and moved to precise militant choreography in a red spotlight. Everyone was on their feet with thunderous applause, and then the lady herself took a moment to speak.

Any ardent Sade fan knows that it’s a very rare and precious occasion to hear Adu talk because she does not do much press – she even turned down Oprah’s request for a chat on the talk show queen’s farewell season. She spoke with her native British pronunciation when she addressed the crowd as “Los Angeleez.” She talked about being aware of her long absence by stating, “It’s been way too long, but we are here right now. We are gonna make up for all the lost years.” Other jokes and chatter flew over most of the audience’s heads due to her strong British accent and lingoes.

The audience was thrilled to be in the presence of real music royalty. Adu still has a huge following despite her decade-long sabbaticals between projects. This very young-looking 52-year-old woman still looks the exact same way and sounds as great as she did when she first burst onto the music scene over a quarter century ago by keeping her trademark classic look of a slicked back pony tail, showcasing her proud forehead, bright red lips and wearing large, golden hoop earrings. Her graceful style has influenced many over the years, most notably Janelle Monáe, who also only graces the stage in black and white attire and makes deliberate efforts to put on a very sophisticated stage show.

The show consisted of 22 of many of the band’s biggest hits, new songs and fan favorites like the hallelujah heart-pounding chorus in the song “Pearls.” Although Adu is the image and voice of the band, the other musicians are absolutely first-rate and contribute immeasurably to Sade’s success. After the show, several people talked about how they were just blown away by the saxophone solos by Stuart Mathewman. Adu graciously allows her instrumental band mates and vocalists to take part in extended solos, which were also highlights of the show.

Though concerts can sometimes become melodramatic, Adu was able to dazzle the audience with her charm and talents without overdramatizing her performance. Her breakout signature anthem, “Smooth Operator,” gave a very nostalgic ode to a past era of Hollywood with a large screen featuring silhouettes and atmospheric effects. The sets were enormous in scale, as velvet and silken translucent curtains dropped and projections of different elements capturing the essences of different seasons flashed onto them.

Adu may not have the vocal acrobatics of Mariah Carey and hip-hop dance moves of Beyoncé, but no one comes close to her style and elegance. She is the Audrey Hepburn in the film world’s era of busty blond starlets. She never resorts to explicit sexual innuendos in her music, but there is a mesmerizing quality about her, which allows for her timeless and universal appeal. By not trying to act overly sexy, her sensuality shines through strongly and refreshingly. A radio DJ on the Wave recently summarized her perfectly by stating that even though there are many very good female singers, Adu will always remain in a class by herself because she is exceptional even amongst the greatest.

SADE will perform at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Tuesday, Aug. 30 and Wednesday,  Aug. 31, with John Legend as the opening support act for both shows.