Rick Ojo McGrath

Sade Lovers Live

2002 Sony Music

All lyrics by Helen Adu, except Smooth Operator, by H. Adu and R. St. John.

Recorded live at Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, CA on September 20, 2001, and at the Great Western Forum, Inglewood, CA, on September 21, 2001

Sade live in ChicagoRecording Engineer: Charlie Bouis
Audio Mixer: Mike Pela

The Band: Sade Adu, vocals; Andrew Hale, keyboards; Stuart Matthewman, guitars, saxophone; Paul S. Denman, bass; with Ryan Waters, guitar; Pete Lewison, drums; Karl Vanden Bossche, percussion; Leroy Osbourne, vocals, guitar, flute; Tony Momrelle, vocals.

Lovers Live: Even Sloppy Seconds Sounds Super

It's been a heckuva lot of fun for Sade fans over the past couple years. After an eight-year hiatus the Nubian Princess came out of retirement in 2000 to release the well-received but somewhat under-the-top Lovers Rock CD, and 2001 was even more exciting with her band's first North American tour in almost a decade.

Dubbed Lovers Live, the tour featured 42 concerts played throughout the US and Canada from July to the end of September. I was fortunate enough to see the show twice early on with LR in Seattle, and then again in August when the tour hit Toronto. As might be expected, it was a sleek, sophisticated two-hour performance, featuring 10 Lovers Rock songs and 11 hits from her four prior albums.

And now we have the Lovers Live CD, mixed down from her last two concerts of the tour. Clocking in at a generous 70 minutes, Lovers Live gives Sadeholics their first-ever CD-based example of The Lady and Her Band in full real-time flight, feeding off the audience just enough to add an adrenaline edge to the deadly cool funk of their pristine studio sound. (Aficionados will tsk and point to the dvd/video of her 1993 San Diego concert, but that gig was never released in a CD format)

Of the 13 songs on Lovers Live, only five are from the Lovers Rock CD, the rest being mostly the usual suspects from the brilliant, but not very extensive, Sade songbook. The most noticeable omission on the live CD is, in fact, the title song from Lovers Rock, which seems a tad surprising given it was part of the concert and was performed very well.

Setlists notwithstanding, there's nothing here for the Sade fan to not like, and much for the newcomer to appreciate. Funknuts like Cherish the Day, Smooth Operator, Kiss of Life, The Sweetest Taboo, No Ordinary Love and Is It a Crime are given the big band workover and stick pretty well glued to the original arrangements (Sade doesn't mess with success). What's interesting are the often strangely appropriate crowd responses as counterpoint and emphasis to fill in and accentuate the usual dropout silences the band incorporates into its funk rhythms. If you did manage to be one of the estimated 700,000 people who caught the tour, the crowd will take you right back to the sounds and feel of the night you were there.

The biggest change is the decision to cut Red Eye, the usual band workout following Smooth Operator (and it's one of the worst edits on the CD) and replace it with the mini-workout the boys tack onto the end of Paradise.

Lovers Rock songs do tend to standout against the lovestruck classics as being thematically more involved with social commentary or motherly concerns, and I'm happy to report all of them sound a lot fuller and more dynamic live, as they're worked over with the extended band and more singers to boost the arrangements. Slave Song benefits from this treatment, as does By Your Side and Flow. Best is the instant classic, Somebody Already Broke My Heart, which satisfies immensely before it neatly segues from its country roots into the analytical ironies of It's Never As Good As The First Time. The only song as weak on the disc as on the original is The Sweetest Gift, Helen's overwrought lullaby to her baby daughter.

The concert's temporal proximity to events of 9/11 is revealed off the top, for as the band dips into the applause of the opening number, Cherish the Day, Helen advises the audience, "Thank you. Especially in these times, I feel very privileged to be up here on stage and to sing for you."

Now, research into my extensive collection of bootlegged live Sade concerts reveals her as an always polite and well-spoken entertainer, and one wonders what effects performing nine days after the insanity of the terrorist attacks might have had on our sensitive star. There are no other references to 9/11 on this CD, however, and I suppose we'll have to wait for the full concert DVD, planned for release in March 2002, to catch the entire performance and all her between-song activities.

Lovers Live comes with a pleasant enough little booklet, listing all the tour gigs, personnel and credits, and is brightened by quite a few colour pix grabbed from the film that was shot for the aforementioned DVD - - a nice example of a little cross marketing & but tastefully done.

All in all, a very good recording, well mixed, well performed, and well stocked with 70 minutes of a great live kickass groove, as only this band can play. And even though the Nubian Princess slithers through a lot of the same old stuff on Lovers Live, in this case even sloppy seconds are better than no loving at all.

© Rick McGrath 2/02

AJO RATING: Ajo's rating


Culture Court | e-mail Ojo | the Ojo Files | Features

Media Court | copyright 2002 | Lawrence Russell