Live on stage: Alicia Keys

My biggest takeaway from the Alicia Keys concert? She can’t dance to save her life.

But cot damn can that girl sing. Keys’ crystal-clear pipes sliced through the cavernous Verizon Center like a sharp katana during her stop Thursday in Washington, D.C. on her Element of Freedom Tour. There were times where I wondering if she was actually singing, it sounded so good.

And while I’ve never perceived Keys as a dynamic performer, she did a surprisingly good job of doing more than just sitting at the piano – although, again, I must say her dancing leaves a lot to be desired.

Keys is prone to sermonizing, but she also managed to keep that in check as well. After a ham-fisted opening that saw her break free from her cage, she jumped right into the back-to-back combo of “You Don’t Know My Name” and “Fallin’,” both of which were given unique arrangements.

Keys then made the curious choice of performing her forgettable song from “Quantum of Solace,” an inert selection for an artist with a catalog of hits that the audience would have gobbled up hungrily. There were a few selections like that during the show – ones where I wondered, “Why is she doing that song?”

Of course Keys is world famous for playing her grand piano, but she did her part to quash that stereotype by fiddling with all sorts of instruments, including a weird mini-piano with no discernible keys, a piano-guitar contraption, and most notably her Moog synthesizer during “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart.”

The crowd was primed by this point, and Keys finished the job with an encore of “Empire State of Mind,” her anthemic paean to New York City, helpfully adjusted to insert “D.C.” every once in a while. (Wonder what she does when she goes to San Diego?)

I wasn’t expecting that much from this show – but Keys did enough to shake up her image and my perceptions to deliver the kind of headlining effort worthy of a star of her caliber.

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~ by Elliott on March 30, 2010.

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