TAMPA — The audience at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Event Center got a special shoutout from Alicia Keys on Sunday.
“Y’all are my boo tonight,” the singer told the crowd. She went on to deliver an outstanding live performance that cemented her as one of the greatest musicians and singers of all time.
Keys showered the audience with affection during her performance of “Empire State of Mind,” an ode to her home of New York City. The crowd was so hyped up, one would have thought she was singing about Tampa.
She connected with the audience throughout her intimate concert, which had been rescheduled several times. She let us know how happy she was to finally be there.
Dressed in a bejeweled bodysuit accentuated by a black corset, tall boots and topped with a sheer silver trench coat, Keys’ infectious smile was the most dazzling part of her look.
She opened with “Nat King Cole” from her 2021 album “Keys” before saying the night was about having fun and “letting your shoulders drop.” We complied.
Next, she was on her Yamaha piano, belting out the classic “You Don’t Know My Name,” then got up to perform the spoken phone call part of the song that was a defining moment in pop culture in 2003. It holds up.
Keys’ band was stellar: Props to music director/keyboardist Justin C. Gilbert, Mike Reid on drums, Swol on bass (and upright bass), guitarist Curt Chambers and backing vocalist Norelle. Their sound was extremely tight, and Norelle’s vocals were a lovely complement to Keys’.
Keys rolled through highlights of her repertoire, performing “New Day,” “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)” and the soulful “Diary,” which had the audience belting out in unison.
Then, in proof of her prowess not only as a musician and singer, she showed off her producing skills with her beloved Moog synthesizer.
What happened next was a unique concert experience. Her album “Keys” is composed of double versions of each track; one is “original,” meaning her on the piano, and the other is “unlocked,” a version backed by beats created on a sampling machine. So she proceeded to play both versions of three songs — “Skydive,” “Is it Insane” and “Only You” — and asked us which we preferred, judged by audience response. The unlocked versions of “Skydive” and “Only You” won; “Is it Insane” was a toss up.
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Female empowerment was a running theme, manifested in the songs “A Woman’s Worth” and “Girl on Fire.” She brought it all the way back with “Fallin’,” her 2001 breakout hit that clearly foreshadowed the artist she is today.
The encore started with 2016′s “In Common.” Then she did an exciting cover of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” before launching into her own “Underdog,” which shares the same theme.
She wrapped up with love songs, which are her forte. “No One,” the anthem for any committed partner, preceded “If I Ain’t Got You,” one of the most romantic pieces in music.
If they hadn’t been already, the audience left the concert completely in love with Keys.