Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

A serene Seal heads back on the road to Ruth Eckerd

Seal sounds utterly at peace when he calls from Aspen, Colo., where he's relaxing between tours with his dog by his side. He sounds so serene, in his ageless, velvet-voiced way, that it begs a question: Is he happier off the road than on it?

"That's an interesting question," says the singer, 53. "You know, if you'd asked me that question, let's say, two months ago, I probably would've said I'm happier off the road because I'm such a homebody type. And I love being in my own surroundings.

"Having said that, this last European tour was the most enjoyable tour I've ever done. I really enjoyed singing. I'm in pretty good shape vocally at the moment. And physically, I feel fitter and healthier than I've felt in a long time. That's due to all manner of things, from diet to where you get at this point in my life. … I'm looking forward to performing and then continuing to perform, even when this tour is finished. I have really a renewed sense of enjoyment and vigor for it."

That's wonderful news for fans in Florida, who historically have found themselves waiting long stretches between the Crazy singer's trips to the Sunshine State. He finally returns Friday for his first-ever concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall — hard to believe, considering he's been a star for more than a quarter-century.

But Seal has many reasons to feel young again. Months after releasing his latest album — the very classic-sounding 7, a reunion with longtime producer Trevor Horn — he's been all over the place in 2016. He played Pontius Pilate in Tyler Perry's The Passion on Fox, and had a self-deprecating role as himself in the Andy Samberg comedy Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

And his biggest hit, the Grammy-winning '90s juggernaut Kiss From a Rose, had a key cameo in FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson, dramatically soundtracking, of all things, Marcia Clark getting a haircut.

Don't feel too bad if you missed that one. Seal did, too.

"I tried watching that show, and it just bored me to death," he says. "It just wasn't my favorite watch. But I'm thankful that it was used in it."

An unexpected twist in this Summer of Seal has been a re-appreciation of his career from a new generation of young singers. Foremost among them is Gallant, a much-buzzed about Maryland native who's called Seal one of his biggest influences — even if Seal's classic pop style and Gallant's boundary-pushing R&B would not, at first blush, seem to mesh. Seal joined Gallant on stage at Coachella, and even hit the studio for a guest spot on Gallant's single Weight in Gold.

"He said that when he was coming up, when he was a young kid — he's still a young kid — I was the person that gave him permission to be different, that made him realize that we didn't have to stay in a box of our own being. He saw me as somebody that constantly walked to the beat of his own drum, and he admired that. That made me feel quite special when he said that."

It's something Seal never thought much about when he was coming up in the '80s and early '90s. He was, and remains, a pop anomaly — the London-raised son of a Nigerian mother and Brazilian father, blending sounds as disparate as disco, American soul and lush British pop into a sound uniquely his own. That may be why today's pop, soul and R&B singers — especially those who cast themselves as outsiders — find him inspiring.

"I was always taught to write from the heart, to be open, to bare your soul, to be resonant in music," Seal said. "I always strived to find my own voice. Once I found it, there was just no other option. It was so intoxicating that I just didn't really even consider any other way."

That may be what keeps him coming back for these too-infrequent treks across America. In Aspen, he's running about 6 kilometers a day and sticking to a diet "that's given me more energy," all to prepare for his tour. And he's finding he likes it more than ever.

"As I'm approaching tour mode, it isn't really tour mode anymore. It's just a continuum of what I'm doing at the moment," he said. "I'm in that mode sort of on a permanent basis. It ceases to become tour mode, and more life mode."

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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