Inside Bay Area: R. Kelly soars into the Paramount
R. Kelly didn't want anyone to feel left out.
he felt it was necessary to explain how the seemingly exclusionary
title of his current concert trek, the Single Ladies Tour, applied to
everyone at the Paramount Theatre on Thursday night.
mean a lot of things," said the 45-year-old R&B vocalist, basically
contradicting every dictionary in the known universe. "If you are here
with the one you love and you don't get your (act) together, then you
too will be single."
Now it all makes sense. Except, of course,
for how the whole "ladies" angle applied to the men in attendance during
the second half of a two-night stand at the ornate downtown Oakland
To be honest, Kelly probably isn't all that concerned about
the guys -- they've never been his core audience and, in all
likelihood, they never will be.
The different reaction between the
sexes was quite striking. The women were ecstatic throughout the nearly
two-hour show -- whooping and hollering, bumping and grinding, to just
about every song the star sang. Many of the boyfriends and husbands in
the crowd, however, were rather sedate, content to just sit in their
seats and count up all the Brownie points they were earning during the
Kelly is aware of the situation and he plays his cards accordingly.
"If you love me, ladies," he screamed out early in the night, "make some noise!"
They did — and they continued to make plenty of noise throughout the mostly enjoyable concert.
is a polarizing figure, due in large part to a 2002 sex scandal and the
resulting legal problems, and he's turned off nearly as many listeners
as he's turned on. Yet, there's no doubting that he's a first-rate
It all starts with the visuals, which were striking
throughout the show. He first appeared onstage through a
semi-translucent curtain, then huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf
until the white sheet blew away, revealing Kelly, eight backing
vocalists/musicians and, I kid you not, two bartenders -- all dressed in
Kelly grooved, while the bartenders poured drinks for a
few ladies, and the place went nuts. The first half of the show was full
of short snippets from many of the hits and fan favorites from Kelly's
20-year recording career.
The star, who is touring in support of
this year's "Write Me Back," was feeling pretty playful, veering from
the set list and even ad-libbing some lines at one point. He believed
the improvisation added to the show and, in most cases, he was right.
"Ain't that what you all paid for?" he said after making up one little song on the spot. "You paid for a show."
was also quite comical and not above the occasional sight gag. For
example, he asked for "a little stool" be brought out onstage — and
didn't flinch an inch when two roadies carried out a huge golden throne
for him to sit on. Indeed, he looked mighty content resting in the
But the joker is just one side of Kelly -- one that
makes his other onstage personas all that more convincing. He can croon a
slow jam with the best of them, of course, but he's also quite good
with the inspirational anthems. The best known of the latter is "I
Believe I Can Fly" -- the 1996 tune that earned Kelly his three Grammy
That song sounds incredibly hokey these days -- except
when you hear Kelly sing it in person. The tune turned out to be one of
the true highlights of the Paramount show, right up there with "I Wish"
and "Step in the Name of Love."
As he sang "I Believe I Can Fly" near the end of the show, the people -- both men and women -- stood as one to watch Kelly soar.