Review: Oleta Adams reveals rhythm of life

Oleta Adams has got to have the warmest smile in show biz.

She’s not too shabby of a singer, either.

The R&B artist, best known for the 1990 hit “Get Here,” (a song written and recorded by Brenda Russell) put on a heck of a show Wednesday night in San Francisco’s cozy Rrazz Room, opening a four-day engagement.

Playing a grand piano throughout the evening, the songwriter greeted the audience with a simply swell “How the heck are you?” before launching into almost two hours of sublime material, ranging from rockin’ soul to ballads to her own kind of gospel.

She stretched back to her first solo album, yet also offered up compelling new songs from two upcoming recordings, rounding out the music with adorable and heartfelt banter.

Her band is all in the family, featuring her husband of 13 years, John Cushon, on drums. She said she stole amazingly easy-going bassist Dwight Watkins from Peabo Bryson, while multidimensional guitarist Jimmy Dykes, whom she met in Kansas City, served up mighty soulful vocals on a cover of “Let’s Stay Together” that brought the house down.

Going “back to the beginning,” as she said, she played the

uptempo “Rhythm of Life,” along with the equally inspirational “Power of Sacrifice,” which segued into a little bit of “Power of Love.”

Her new tunes also resonated. “Let’s Stay In,” a lovely song about taking time to seriously relax on vacation, featured gorgeous acoustic guitar.

Because the world can be hard, she said she’s writing songs to help people pray. Not sounding traditionally gospel, they nonetheless were beautiful and moving. “Safe and Sound,” she said, is for parents who inevitably worry about their children, while the heartbreaking “Long and Lonely Hours” is about how it feels to be laid up in the hospital for days on end.

Her songs address other difficult topics, including a gorgeously melodic ballad about spousal physical abuse with the lyric “ain’t no way to love me.” “If You’re Willing” was another emotional song about healing.

Toward the end of the set, she gave “Get Here” full, emotional treatment, then bounced into “Circle of Love” before closing with the wise, yet bittersweet “Everything Must Change.” 

IF YOU GO

Oleta Adams

Where: Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. today and Friday; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $47.50

Contact: (866) 468-3399 or www.TheRrazzRoom.com

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