Sultry, Strutting, Timeless Sade Still the Smooth Operator

10 May 2011

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Sade Adu:  Known as the "quite storm" of soulful soft ballads       (


Even the return of the reclusive singer Sade to the stage for her first world tour in 17 years had to take a back seat to the even bigger event taking place at Westminster Abbey last weekend.

With the first night in Nice scheduled for the day of the wedding, and the media's attention focused elsewhere, it wasn't until two days later in a sleepy Hamburg suburb, at the city’s O2 World venue, that the press were able to get their first glimpse of the enigmatic singer.
Best known for classics such as Smooth Operator, and Sweetest Taboo, the singer - also the name of the band -  whose 1984 debut album Diamond Life was dubbed the soundtrack of the Eighties, may not be so well known with the generation that grew up on Britney and Rihanna.

But she will no doubt have proved to be an inspiration to singers such as Adele and Amy Winehouse who have taken up the baton for the soul-jazz tinged tunes she became famous for.
PIC 2: Return of the queen: Sade in Hamburg

While the success of her jazz-pop first album soon became something of a stick to beat her with, Sade did not rest on her laurels, producing four albums before last year's release Soldier Of Love which all made the U.S. Billboard Top 10, selling a massive 50million albums.

Her comeback album Soldier Of Love released last year showed Sade had lost none of their lustre. And the promise of a world tour prompted ripples of excitement among her staunchly loyal fans.

While she may not incite the kind of fandom experienced by modern artists such as GaGa and Rihanna, the 52 year-old half-Scottish, half-Nigerian chanteuse showed in a two-hour long set of original music, that those gymslip goddesses still have much to learn.
The lights dimmed as Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds began playing. Soon after, she emerged together with her band on hydraulic lifts through the stage wearing her signature black polo neck, cropped trousers and sexy black heels, it was a relief to see she had not taken Madonna route to staying relevant, bypassing the shiny leotard.

With her slicked back ponytail, trademark red lipstick and THAT voice. Sade - the singer and the band - was still, reassuringly to her fans, still Sade. Opening with the self-titled single off album Soldier Of Love the pulsating, bass heavy tune filled the quiet arena.
Confident, smiling and strutting, note-perfect and in sync, Sade marched up and down the stage like a sergeant major leading her troops in perfect harmony.

Her husky, throaty voice - never mind her amazingly youthful appearance - untouched by the years.She wasted no time in performing the songs that made her so synonymous with the decade that style forgot.
Your Love Is King made an early appearance, as did a film noir staging of Smooth Operator which saw Sade return to her androgynous look complete with masculine brogues. 

New songs Love Is Found and In Another Time which feature on the group's newly released  'The Ultimate Collection' - a two set CD which includes three new songs including 'Moon and The Sky' featuring a cameo by Jay Z -  fitted into the set as easily as old favourite Jezebel which saw Sade switch into full on torch-singer mode.
Sophie Mueller who has worked with the band since their first album, created the stunning visuals projected onto a screen of white curtains throughout the show.

Despite the vastness of the space, Mueller helped to make the show an intimate experience for the audience, with the use of clever-staging, lighting and velvet drapes.

On the evidence, there are few contemporary singers who can interpret songs, and stir emotion quite as well as Miss Adu can, and it was certainly hard to believe that she had spent quite so long away from the stage.
But in less serious moments, Sade was playful, flirtatious and skanked around the stage with her backing singers as if she were playing hopscotch in the school playground.

Moving from her suit to a full length gown and bare feet for siren song King Of Sorrow, the longer she performed, the more she liberated herself from the old image of her. 

Sweetest Taboo had the usually reserved German audience on their feet. As the German promoter said: 'If they're clapping their hands, they're freaking out!' With six albums worth of material, it would have been easy for it to turn into one long tribute show.
But the mix of older songs, and new material such as The Moon And The Sky melded perfectly together, to create a set which sounded fresh and contemporary.

Highlights included Is It A Crime, No Ordinary Love, and Pearls. And 1993 single Cherish The Day was the perfect sign-off to what had simply been the most perfect night.


Friday May 27th – M.E.N Arena Manchester

Sunday May 29th – LG Arena Birmingham

Tuesday May 31st – The O2 arena London


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