On the day of her fifth album’s release, there’s only one place Alicia Keys wanted to be: home.
A native New Yorker, the R&B singer celebrated Girl On Fire hitting shelves by performing one of the most intimate concerts of her career in Manhattan’s lower West Side. Keys took to the stage at the iHeartRadio Theater presented by P.C. Richard & Son to honor Hurricane Sandy first responders and volunteers. And in a token of gratitude, the audience was comprised entirely of people who were nominated to attend the exclusive event due to their work and commitment to restoring their local communities.
Listening to a diverse setlist of Keys’ greatest hits and fan-favorites, the concertgoers excitedly cheered as they heard familiar songs like “Karma,” “If I Ain’t Got You,” and “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart.” But the applause was never as uproarious as when the 14-time Grammy Award-winner played her 2001 breakout smash, “Fallin’.” Upon the song’s first note, it was instantly clear that the eleven years that have passed since its release have done nothing but enhance Key’s soulful vocals and inspiringly passionate delivery.
When she wasn’t taking the audience on a nostalgic journey through her repertoire, Keys highlighted her favorite tracks on Girl On Fire. Kicking off the show with album stand-out “New Day,” the singer/songwriter also treated her audience to the advisory “Listen To Your Heart,” the gorgeous love song, “Not Even The King,” and the album’s dynamitic title track.
While each individual song merited its own standing ovation, easily the most powerful performance of Keys’ new material was the show stopping rendition of “Brand New Me.” But perhaps even more touching than the lyrics’ message of self-empowerment was that joining Keys on stage during the song’s duration was her 2-year-old son, Egypt. Handed off to his mother following her bombastic performance of her classic, “No One,” the toddler lovingly embraced Keys and requested into the microphone that she sing “Brand New Me.”
“Don’t be surprised/If I talk a little louder/If I speak up when you’re wrong/If I walk a little taller/I’ve been on to you too long,” the songstress beautifully crooned as she reminisced on the long journey she took to get to where she is today. “If you noticed that I’m different/Don’t take it personally/Don’t be mad, it’s just the brand new kind of me/And it ain’t bad, I found a brand new kind of free.”
Another highlight of the evening was Keys’ flawless performance of “Empire State Of Mind (Pt. II)” – a song that made history the evening prior when city landmark the Empire State Building synced up its lightshow to it. It was during this tribute to the Big Apple that Keys’ love of her hometown was on full display, visibly moving the audience members who so heroically demonstrated the same sentiment just a few weeks earlier.
When Z100 radio host Elvis Duran introduced Alicia Keys before she hit the stage, he described her as “New York’s daughter.” Yet after an up-close performance designed as a thank you to those dedicated to its perseverance, Keys proved that every member of her audience was just as deserving of that title as she was. She may have been the catalyst for everyone gathering at the iHeartRadio Theater that night – but the real reason everyone was there was apparent the whole time: a communal love for New York and the music that expresses its heart.
PHOTOS | Theo Wargo for Getty Images/iHeartRadio
VIDEOS | Courtesy of Roberto Marin