Perhaps more artists should spend a decade between performing and releasing new material - for Sade, it’s been working like a charm.
The band, fronted by the sleek, Nigerian-born, British-raised Sade Adu, hasn’t run out of steam as it wound toward the end of its highly anticipated tour in the first of two shows at the Oracle Arena in Oakland Friday night.
At the outset, Sade mentioned that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”; over the course of two hours, she and her eight male musical collaborators did indeed prove how much their affection had grown for their fans through the years. She even saluted the crowd at a few points.
Radio-ready versions of big hits - “Your Love is King,” “The Sweetest Taboo,” “Paradise,” “No Ordinary Love” – sounded great next to equally mesmerizing renditions of songs from the new album, “Soldier of Love,” the show’s opening number.
Those who think that Sade’s sultry, sometimes spare sound is more suited to a jazz club than a sports arena would be proven wrong by this stadium-filling production created by Sophie Muller and Baz Halpin, featuring just the right amount of video-and-lighting touches supporting the music.
The opening to the groove-laden “Smooth Operator” had a huge, neon-lit, noir-themed backdrop, evoking a moody big city.
As a vocalist and a personality, Sade was an appealing combination of cool (dressed in chic black slacks, hair tied in a lustrous pony tail) and warm, with her earnest, wide smile, at the appropriate times providing a lovely counterpoint to the some of the show’s more evocative and sad tunes, the likes of “Is It a Crime.”
Her equally stylish musicians – band members Stuart Matthewman, amazing on guitar and sax, Andrew Hale on keyboards, Paul Denman on bass, along with Leroy Osbourne on vocals and guitar, Tony Momrelle on vocals, Peter Lewinson on drums, Ryan Waters on guitar and Karl Vanden Bossche on percussion - complemented the vocals perfectly.
Sade happens to have audience that’s as appealing as the music. The wonderfully diverse crowd members got their moment in the spotlight during a terrific sing-along on “Nothing Can Come Between Us” in which the lights came up, and faces of all ages and colors appeared on the video screens and backdrop.
“It’s about faith, it’s about trust,” Sade sang, assuring those same qualities from her fans, feeling fully satisfied after the long wait to see their heroine.