Monday, November 12, 2012

The Single Ladies Tour: Milwaukee Show Review

JSOnline: R. Kelly tantalizes crowd with musical foreplay

So often in music the name of a tour has little to nothing to do with the tour itself. But leave it to R. Kelly, the most dedicated man in R&B (his "Trapped in the Closet" hip-hopera, 22 chapters and counting, will never end) to really commit when it comes to a concept.

For his latest venture on the road - dubbed the "Single Ladies Tour" - R. Kelly transformed the Milwaukee Theatre on Saturday into a wild party for his shrieking, dancing female fans and some of the dressed-to-impress fellas scattered throughout the approximately two-thirds-full theater.

The stark white stage was pretty much the only pristine thing about Saturday's unapologetically raunchy show. In hindsight, the presence of two bars on either side of the stage (complete with bartenders and female patrons plucked from the crowd), and the sight of Kelly's unfastened, blinged-out belt buckle at the start of the set, were but foreshadowing for how loose things were going to get.

Oh, and they got plenty loose.

As Kelly purred the words "feel me" from "12 Play," one of probably dozens of "baby-making" ballads he performed in part on Saturday, a few women standing at his feet reached out with their hands and helped themselves to some crotch-rubbing.

Then later, a woman was brought on stage who, after signing a waiver, was fastened inside a metal cage. The 45-year-old Kelly stepped inside, a sheet was placed over the bars, and the cage began a-rockin'.

Then at the end of the night, Kelly made an open call for ladies in the crowd to come on stage to dance with him - but by then, things were getting a little too loose for security, who had to remove one woman in a tight, silver sequined dress who went charging for Kelly. (The bartenders, too, transformed into bouncers to keep dancing fans on stage at bay.)

These were the sort of so-ridiculous-they're-borderline-brilliant antics we've come to expect from R. Kelly. And they were hardly the only ones.

He caused an uproar at the 40-minute mark when he said, straight-faced, that he was done . . . only to turn things in his favor when he said he was mistaken and actually had 52 more songs to run through. At one point when the stage went dark, Kelly whispered "I'm in the audience," sending fans into a tantalizing search. He even sat on a throne at one point, and helped himself to a drink at the bar because "I deserve it," while the audience sang a medley of his hits for about six minutes.

There were only a couple of songs, including a melodramatic rendition of "I Believe I Can Fly," that Kelly and his eight-piece band performed in full near the end of the 100-minute set. But it actually worked to his favor, with the full songs serving as climax to a long evening of musical foreplay. And this crowd loved to be teased, collectively erupting into a renewed burst of cheers and singing almost every time a new 30-second song snippet began.

R. Kelly could have even sung an opera song and "booga booga booga" and the crowd would have loved it. He proved as much Saturday, when he actually did sing an opera song and "booga booga booga," and the crowd did indeed love it.

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