Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 7, 2011

Sade in Vegas: How Not to Stage a Live Concert

Sade's first concert tour in a decade.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada

“We can’t hear you!” a woman in the nose-bleed seats shouted, early on in the Sade concert September 3 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “We can’t hear you!” chimed in another woman, from the other side of the 16,800-seat Garden Arena.

Sade Adu finally shouted back, “We love you too, Las Vegas!”

Apparently she couldn’t hear us either.

It was apparent from the first notes of the first song, “Soldier of Love,” that something was very wrong with the audio mix at this concert. Usually, concert-goers give the MGM arena high marks for its acoustics. At this concert, however, Ms. Abu’s voice could only occasionally be heard above the ruckus of the instrumentation.

The situation was never rectified. Over the course of two hours of uncharacteristically loud numbers, four wardrobe changes, and multiple scenery swaps, the audio remained muddy.

It was great for fans to see Sade (check out zimbio’s 73-slide composition on the Vegas event) on the band’s first concert tour in a decade; but, the Vegas audience had to settle for less than the flawless concert experience they had a right (as ticket-buyers who paid $50-$250 – and more, thanks to scalpers) to expect. It was unclear who was to blame.

One couple at the concert was luckier than most.

It was clear, however, that image consultants had an iron grip on the staging of the production numbers for the evening’s program. Ms. Adu alluded to as much when, at the end of the concert, she introduced the band (which is named “Sade”, btw) and apologized to one longtime member. “They made him shave his head,” she said. “Because they wanted us to show a ‘younger look.'” Hard to believe Ms. Adu is now 52, and has been singing now-standard chestnuts such as “Smooth Operator” for 28 years!

Perhaps the image consultants – who “they” were was never mentioned – also ordered the queen of smooth jazz, and her slick musicians, to alter their seductive sound to something more akin to that of Spinal Tap – the mythical “world’s loudest band”. The volume of the instruments was pumped w-a-a-a-y up (near Spinal Tap’s “11” on a 1-10 scale amplifier).

Many in the audience commented that they missed Ms. Adu’s haunting, plaintive and often whispery vocal treatments, in the onslaught of tortured decibels. To the ear of this reviewer, and for the purposes of this review, this loss was most significant.

The musical numbers were explosive!

But many others, like those who profess not to be able to taste the difference between grass-fed filet mignon and McDonald’s feedlot ground beef, were happy just to consume whatever the image consultants fed them.

The very highly processed production design left little room for improvisation or deviation from the script. Numbers were broadcast one right after another, in an intensely choreographed order, like MTV videos. The performers, Ms. Adu in particular, were almost robotically stiff. Interaction with the audience between numbers was virtually non-existent.

At times, it seemed some audio was pre-recorded (Lip-syncing?!? Say it ain’t so, Sade!) – especially looped background vocals. Occasionally an instrument was heard playing that wasn’t seen on stage.

Each number, except for Ms. Adu’s mangled audio, sounded exactly like the original recordings upon which they were based.

Another disappointing aspect of this disconcerting concert: No close-ups of Ms. Adu on the giant TV screens that flanked the stage. Midway through the program, there was a candid video of Ms. Adu, rolling around in a grassy field somewhere, with about 30 seconds of close-ups (endlessly repeated). But in the concert itself, she was never shown closer than waist-up on the big screen. The effect was one of the star performer distancing herself from her audience.

No close-ups!

It is unknown whether this was a production issue, or a decision by the famously reclusive Ms. Adu.

The final disappointment (other than the two hours it took to get out of the MGM Grand’s parking garage at 2 a.m.) was the lack of an encore number. Despite the rapturous applause of the audience (throughout the show, despite the production deficiencies), at the end of the musical set, Ms. Adu merely introduced her band. They all bowed. And then they left. Never to return. (A commenter – see below – notes that after a time Ms. Adu did return for one encore, to an arena that was already well on the way to emptying out into the casino. Rather embarrassing.)

Perhaps the canned nature of the program did not allow for that kind of spontaneity. Too bad. Improvisation is the soul of jazz.

Jerry Garrett

September 7, 2011

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Responses

  1. Sorry to hear that or should I say not to hear that? I saw her a few years ago in Philly and it was top notch quality sound. You heard every breath taken. Surprised they didnt do anything to fix it.

  2. This review was awful…and inaccurate. I found it to be one of the best performances I’ve witnessed, ever. She did sing an encore, in a lovely red gown and was lifted on a cube up above the stage in red light. Perhaps the writer of this awful review left before the concert was really over. What a shame. Her last song, Cherish the Day, was fabulous. Oh, and parking tip – go across the road & park at Hooters…piece of cake !

    • Thanks for this information. If there was an encore, it was only after an uncommonly long delay. The timing was unfortunate for many. The arena was already half empty when I left, the applause had died down, and ushers were pointing people toward the exits. Maybe people thought it was over; maybe they had had enough; people had been leaving the arena while she was still singing numbers in her regular set. Maybe they knew what to expect in the parking lot.

  3. The review is interesting because I experienced essentially the same here in Australia at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne in December 2011.
    There was no doubt she lip synced a considerable part, especially some of the more challenging notes. My observations lead me to believe there is a full pre-recorded vocal and instrumentation multitrack is running the entire show and is able in a split second to be implemented if vocals fade etc. It was clear there was gaps for audience interaction to complete the ruse. The initial songs were extremely poorly produced with her vocals inaudible. It was not her ‘warming up’ it was just badly done.
    The give away came when her singing was heard as she walked away from the mic and right off stage with no change to here vocal, along with some instruments not on the stage, playing, as Jerry noticed.
    I think a live concert should be just that, not a fake karaoke version.
    That being said, she looked great, the band was clearly very polished and practised, but not good enough to fool us.

    • Yes, I didn’t feel I needed to pay $175 to watch Sade lip-sync music videos. Didn’t Britney and a few others get blasted for doing the same thing a while back?

    • http://www.take40.com/news/27601/review:-sade-at-rod-laver-arena-in-melbourne

      so perfect,so live singing…

      nobody left the building,all stayed for the encore,and hoped for even more…having the best concert of the year..this is Melbourne..Vegas is exactly the same..check your facts first..why you? cause i believe Sade fan is your alter ego.,alias Garret….no Sade fan would say anything like that..just stupid and not true…reviews,you tube..what more do we need to see and hear what’s a false statement..

  4. I am pretty doggone sure some or most of this Sade “Bring Me Home Live” just released is lip synced. The vocals are amazingly close to the studio originals. Camera angles are odd with the microphone directly in front of her mouth, and snippy editing that rarely features the camera on her at the beginning or ending of a line. A posted video of her concert in 2011 in California clearly shows her mouth closed while a vocal has started. The folks who rate the dvd quality are so wrapped up in how wonderful she is, they won’t hear anything about lip syncing.
    Are there experts who can check out this dvd and find out?
    Thanks Jerry…

    • I totally agree with you. I hope someone takes a close look at this, from a technical standpoint. Why make every track sound the same as the original? Wouldn’t some different interpretations create new interest?

  5. wow,just found this story,and a story it is,lip-sinck!!she never ever does a playback thing.not even on tv-shows.try to find those on you tube.
    try to find my vids,Sade,really up-close.shoot from front-row.what are you saying.it takes three minutes before the encore starts,not really a waiting game.could you not see some of her shows on you tube beforehand?very strange.you would had known a bit more..the band is playing LIVE.no tape is coming with it.are you crazy.the dvd,the singing and the music is taped seperatly.and put together on dvd.and i have to say,they did not do the best job.nothing to do with her performance,all is on the plate of the editor.there are a thousand reviews,only this one is saying something completely different.that say’s enough.would be different if all pointing that one out.sadly,on the dvd it wasn’t her best singing,but listen to Skin and you will know it’s live.like everything is live.no song ended excactly at the same time..
    nope,i would do some home-work before i would wright such a story..
    i don’t know about the sound or what cheap ticket you had ,ending up on a bad corner side of the veneu.but more than 2 ours with not changing that sound.it’s just unbelievable.Sophie is sitting in the audience.did she fel in sleep????.just a stupid review.reading it over,it’s a made up one,MANY in the audience???please,you talked with no one..and leaving before the encore??you went walking with stupid people.and that’s the truth.

    • Just telling folks what happened and what we saw at the concert we went to. A number of others say they had the same experience. Most disappointing production of a concert we’ve been to. Her concerts a decade ago were completely different, and very well done.

  6. https://jerrygarrett.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/sade-in-vegas-how-not-to-stage-a-live-concert/

    same place,same veneu same concert.

    there are a few more reviews.and there are comments underneath you tube vids..all about this same concert.i think you could not be more wrong.
    but hey,it’s a easy,to say i suppose,i reckon and more silly suggestions.no facts,.did you not learn from your parents that IF you don’t know,for sure you better say nothing?you are in the wrong with this review.you say that you are only telling what happened.did she or did she not sing live? did she playback on her other tours to.odd..she never fools the public.also not this time.not in Vegas.nowhere..all the tv-shows they did to promoot their album she is singing live.all of them.

    to refreshing your mind and for others when they walk into this review.

    had to do a third one,for some reason the second one was not placed.

  7. […] Read More: […]

  8. You put way to much effort into bashing the entire concert. You should have just sat back and enjoyed. I saw her on this same tour in connecticut at the casino & it was beautiful. You just will never understand the work that it takes to put some of these shows together. If you asked me, well that’s only if you actually asked me, you couldn’t do a better job if you try. Stop the crying. -iLLnigma-


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