Was lucky enough to catch Sade in concert the other night, at Zürich Hallenstadion. Rather late in her career to finally see her live, I know. But she was kinda wedged into the ‘didn’t have the dosh at the time’ section of my music collection.
When Diamond Life hit the charts in 1984 I was pre-occupied with raising a family and studying at university. My situation in those days was best described by Simply Red’s 1st hit single just a year later: Money’s too tight (to mention).
Whatever. I’ve been a fan for quite some time and give her stuff the occasional spin when I’m in a more mellow or romantic mood. (Kind of a soul, R&B, smooth jazz mix; if you’re not familiar with her stuff).
Some people’s musical tastes run skin deep and their allegiances tend to wane when an artist’s wrinkles make an appearance. Since many of my earliest musical influences were guitar players, however; I always tended to notice how musicians ripen with age. (And experience obviously). So I was curious to see how the passage of time would affect renditions of some of the bands more memorable hits. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.
If the rest of the audience had much in common with yours truly, then I guess the band had one or two hurdles to overcome, straight out of the gate. Their laid back grooves are usually best experienced in the horizontal position…with lights dimmed…or one or two candles strategically placed, so the shadows aren’t too unflattering.
When it comes to stadium gigs, I’m more comfortable with a mosh pit atmosphere and something more up tempo. For this gig we’d booked seats front’n’center (row 12); so at least we could make believe it was a more intimate club style setting. (A table for my elbows and a Cuba Libre for my vocal chords would’ve been welcome additions to complete the illusion).
Sade’s vocals were spot on for the most part. (She got lost in the mix once or twice; but thankfully not too often or for too long). Given that her singing voice is kinda smokey, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that her speaking voice was kinda raspy. (Guess I’ve never seen her being interviewed in all these years). But surprised I was. (Sounded like she’d been smoking a pack a day since age 5).
I’m not sure which members of the band were from the original line up and which were later additions. (I always tend to think of Sade the singer, rather than Sade the band). But they were all (without exception) extremely talented and the parts very close knit. Everyone got a chance to shine and the great thing about this type of music is actually watching each player’s pauses as well as the fills. I’m always gob smacked at the little nuances that go into putting such a layered sound together. (We’re not worthy). Most notable contributions were obviously the sax parts.
I feel compelled to mention that this is also the first gig where I’ve consciously appreciated how much effort a stage crew can put in (with lighting, props, stage elevations and visual projections), compared to the musicians. The whole thing was really well planned and executed. Good visuals and lighting etc. to enhance the music, keep things interesting and cover costume changes etc. In a club setting it wouldn’t have been necessary of course. But in a stadium setting, it really helped engage the audience.
If they’re headed your way, I’d recommend you go check ’em out. Tickets can be pretty pricey I know; but ya can’t beat a great live performance and these guys were excellent. Well worth it.