Sade still the smoothest operator when it comes to delivering soul, jazz and R’n’B

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It was 1985 when I first met Sade. As a young teenager, I would loiter backstage at the Perth Entertainment Centre, autograph book in hand, waiting for musicians to complete their soundchecks for that evening’s concert performance. Bryan Ferry, Billy Joel, Chrissie Hynde, Simple Minds, The Thompson Twins, A-ha… when I look at my tattered old autograph book today, I realise there’s no other industry I could have ended up in but publishing reviews in entertainment and the arts.

Occasionally, mid-soundcheck, an artist would come out to greet this avid fan, squiggle a cute message on a vinyl record, and provide me with tickets to the evening’s show – one for me, and one for whomever decided to wag school to join me on my celebrity-stalking adventure. I was only 14 and was on a tight budget, so the freebie front-row tickets came in very handy. Anyway, back then, there’s no way I could have truly known what Sade was banging on about on stage with all those lyrics about diamond lives, smooth operators, and lovers in paradise…

Fast-forward a quarter of a decade and I’m invited to review the legendary singer’s performance at An Evening On The Green on Perth’s picturesque Esplanade. Studying the photographs from Tuesday night’s performance, the girl hardly looks like she’s aged. Nigerian-born and London-bred, Ms Adu has managed to maintain her model features (she did begin her career as a fashion model). But aesthetics aside, it’s the voice that’s truly impressive, and it only seems to have gotten better over time like a fine vintage wine (a clichéd analogy, I know, but heck, what else springs to mind whilst listening to this diva’s laidback tunes?).

Supported by a full band and session singers, the soul, R’n’B and smooth jazz hits just kept coming: ‘Your Love Is King’, ‘Hang On To Your Love’, ‘The Sweetest Taboo’, ‘Jezebel’, ‘Paradise’, ‘No Ordinary Love’, right through to her recent hit-with-good-groove ‘Soldier Of Love’ (funny how she’s increased the funk factor as she’s matured).

The slickly cut, towering video footage impressed the crowd, even pleasing patrons seated way back on the green. As for lucky punters in the front few rows, at close inspection of the singer’s outfits (all six costume changes) Sade continues to possess class, right to the very last stitch. In fact, everything this girl does oozes sheer style. She poses in profile mid-chorus to let you appreciate that one-of-a-kind killer silhouette. She curtseys before each of her session players as she’s introducing them one by one. And even when she’s making a dirty joke, she delivers it with finesse and a lack of offense.

This might well have been one of the best live performances of 2011. Every element of production appeared to be carefully considered to the point that even when a 50-foot red velvet curtain came undone and began spiralling downward, each of the players just kept on playing as Ms Adu belted out ‘Nothing Can Come Between Us’ as though nothing should ever get in the way of a great song.

 

Sade plays the Sydney Entertainment Centre Friday 9 and Saturday 10 December (last minute tickets at www.ticketmaster.com.au) followed by the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Monday 12 December (www.ticketek.com.au). Photography by Antonino Tati.