With fifth studio album "Girl on Fire" hitting stores in a little over a month, Alicia Keys previewed new material and revisited her biggest hits in her hometown during a packed, deafeningly loud concert at Avery Fisher Hall at New York's Lincoln Center on Monday night (Oct. 15). The show was part of the "Love The Journey" concert series, a collaboration between Citi and American Airlines.
Taking the stage in a backless white shirt and sleek black pants that swallowed her waist, Keys and her six-piece set of backing musicians slowly gained momentum as the 90-minute concert rolled on. The singer-songwriter started with "New Day," a uptempo but subpar sampling of "Girl on Fire," that left the seated crowd a little too cold; things warmed up slightly a few minutes later when an island breeze swept through the instrumentation of "You Don't Know My Name." Keys' vocals were reliably exquisite as the sounds of her grand piano and backing band bounced around Avery Fisher Hall, but by the halfway point of the show, it became obvious that the set list was stacking the deck for a hits-laden finale.
The wallop began subtly -- with the careful, silence-shattering new piano ballad "Brand New Me." Keys told the crowd that her forthcoming album "has really gone through a journey with me, and each point in it has been expressing a part of that journey." "Brand New Me," performed solely by Keys and her piano keys, acted as a map of her new journey, offering an immediate melody and empowering lines like "I'll never be perfect, but at least now I'm brave." Keys buried her eyes in the palms of her hands when the emotional song concluded, and opened them to a standing ovation, illuminated by the house lights of the Hall.
From there, the performance was a parade of pristine R&B. "Girl on Fire's" very likable title track was followed by "Fallin'," which led into an appropriately raucous "Empire State of Mind," which was followed by Keys having an absolute blast while shimmying to "No One." Throughout the evening, the singer remained overwhelmingly appreciative of the crowd's enthusiasm, which simmered during the show's first half and reach ear-splitting levels in the second portion. And during her encore, which included new song "Not Even The King" and "The Diary of Alicia Keys" standout "If I Ain't Got You," Keys snuck in a quick plug for "Girl on Fire" and its Nov. 27 release date.
"Girl on Fire's" title track, which features Nicki Minaj, clocked in at No. 7 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart last week. The Citi/AAdvantage Card "Love The Journey" concert series continues this Friday, when Maroon 5 performs at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.