Sade Still A Smooth Operator

In their first tour of Australia in almost 20 years, legendary neo-soul and R&B group Sade (best known for the enchanting voice of leading lady Sade Adu) delighted the Adelaide Entertainment Centre with their quiet complexity and a performance that oozed sex and sophistication.

Moving from Leaconsfield Winery at McLaren Vale, the show was all the better for it. An unusually grand affair, the Sophie Muller-directed production screamed of the theatricality of Broadway with the musical sensibility of seasoned jazz veterans (nearly 30 years into the band’s career and with sales in excess of 50 million, veteran is the first word that springs to mind)

Starting with ‘Solider of Love’, Sade and her band rose from the stage against a post-apocalyptic video backdrop, military drum beats and crunchy guitar licks. With the opening lines ‘I’ve lost the use of my heart, but I’m still alive’, it was clear – Sade was back; her incomparable voice still as passionate as ever. The audience, filled with diehard Sade fans from the 80s were in their element with a special version of ‘Your Love Is King’ (i.e. ‘Adelaide, Your Love Is King’)

‘It’s been a long time, but everyone who is meant to be here is here tonight’ said the 52 year old singer.

Adu and her band members are by now a well-oiled machine. Their rapport and fluidity on stage is more than obvious, sweetly referrering to them as having ‘more magic in their hands than all of Disneyland’.

The mix between songs from their most recent album, Grammy-winning ‘Soldier of Love’ to their greatest hits was appreciated by fans young and old. ‘Smooth Operator’, arguably the band’s biggest hit, drew the first (and certainly not the last) standing ovation of the night, whilst quieter moments ‘Jezebel’ and ‘Morning Bird’, midtempo ‘Skin’ and ‘King of Sorrow’ next to rockier ‘Love is Found’ showed off the band’s diversity. A one trick pony they are not. And let's not forget, Sade were doing saxophone riffs in their songs before they were cool.

Encore 'By Your Side' and 'Cherish The Day', with Sade rising 20 feet above the stage in a Spanish-themed red dress, was the perfect end to an evening that dazzled and surprised without ever trying too hard.

The lighting, video interludes and overall grandeur of Sade’s stage tricks and performance elevated the production from a quiet, intimate affair to one of the most impressive live shows I've seen in years. Toeing the line between jazz lounge and rock concert is no easy feat, yet Sade pulled it off in spades. Ten years between album releases and 20 years between tours, one can only hope that Sade don't keep us waiting so long for their next visit.

'Solider of Love' and 'Sade: The Ultimate Collection' are in stores now

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