Greeted by thunderous applause from her loyal fans, Sade told them, “We’re going to make up for all the lost years.”
By CHRIS BOURNEA
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, that explains why Columbus fans responded with such enthusiasm when Sade performed at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University on July 10. For two solid hours, Sade held the audience under her spell with just the right mix of classic hits and new material.
Warming up the crowd for Sade was Ohio’s own John Legend of Springfield. Looking summery and cool in a tailored white suit, Legend alternated between playing the piano and crooning at the microphone. His set spanned hits from his debut to the present, from the moving ballad “Ordinary People” to the chart-topping dance-floor hit “Green Light.”
Legend showed that he continues to grow as a performer and has the charisma and stage presence to command a large venue like the Schottenstein Center. His smooth sound was the perfect introduction to Sade’s jazzy R&B.
After an intermission, Sade took the stage singing the title of her latest album, the Grammy-nominated “Solider of Love.” In a sleek black body suit, Sade looked the part, like a high-fashion ninja executing militaristic moves.
Greeted by thunderous applause from her loyal fans, Sade told them, “We’re going to make up for all the lost years.” She made good on the promise, taking the crowd back by performing one of her most well-known songs from the beginning of her career, 1985’s “Your Love Is King.”
Throughout the show, it was clear that Sade invested a lot of time, thought and energy into the presentation of her music. The “Soldier of Love” tour has outstanding production value, with billowy curtains descending at various times and morphing into video screens. Sade also proved she’s not a flat-footed singer, breaking out and dancing at certain points in the show, sometimes in sync with her two male background singers.
While the tour’s production value is top-notch, the main focus is on Sade’s music and voice, which is amazingly strong and clear after these years. Sade is a true entertainer, relying on her talent and showmanship rather than the pyrotechnics and gimmicky theatrics that many performers resort to these days.
One of the most dramatic moments of the show came toward the middle of the set when an extended video montage depicting a nighttime urban landscape segued into “Smooth Operator.” Sade and the band came out dressed in 1930s-style gray suits and the video screens broadcast the action onstage in black and white, like an old film-noir movie. After changing into a slinky white gown, Sade captivated the audience once again by standing alone onstage and belting out the haunting ballad “Pearls” as the oversize screen behind her displayed a vivid image of a rising and setting African sun.
For those who came expecting a greatest hits show, Sade did not disappoint. She performed nearly every one of her fan favorites with the exception of “Never as Good as the First Time” and “Nothing Can Come Between Us” (she was offstage changing costumes during the latter, while her backup singers warbled the lyrics).
Sade closed the show with “By Your Side” from 2000’s “Lovers Rock.” After introducing the band and leaving the stage, the auditorium remained dark while the audience continued to cheer and applaud. The band eventually returned for an encore of “Cherish the Day,” with Sade dressed in a slinky red number and standing atop a platform that rose from the stage to resemble a skyscraper.
While many singers have come and gone since Sade burst onto the scene in the mid-‘80s, her “Soldier of Love” tour proved that she will never be duplicated.