Alicia Keys at Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (Photo courtesy Rodeo Houston's Instagram, @rodeohouston)
Alicia's name in lights (Photo courtesy Rodeo Houston's Instagram, @rodeohouston)
While country music titans dominate the bulk of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo‘s concert schedule, the pop and R&B genres routinely snag coveted slots amid the superstar-studded lineup.
More than 73,000 fans poured into NRG Stadium to witness sultry songstress Alicia Keys take the HLSR stage on Friday night, which was also dubbed the Rodeo’s annual Black Heritage Day.
That is the highest attendance for a Houston Rodeo concert so far this year, beating superstar country artist and CMT Male Vocalist of the Year Chris Stapleton, who drew 72,803 fans at his Rodeo debut on Thursday night. (Alicia Keys’ attendance count clocked in at a whopping 73,660 people.)
But Keys is no stranger to breaking Rodeo records. In 2005, she set the paid-attendance record on March 4 (then Black Heritage Day) with a crowd of 72,065. Hilary Duff stole the crown merely two nights later with just 778 more concertgoers. Now, more than a decade later, Keys has managed to top both Duff and her own personal best.
Armed with her velvet voice and signature piano, Keys dominated the revolving stage like only a veteran could, opening the show with a powerful melody via her black-and-white keys.
“Weren’t you the one who said you didn’t want me anymore. And how you need your space and give the keys back to your door,” Keys belted the lyrics to her 2003 hit “Karma.”
Sans trendy dance moves and a fleet of backup dancers, Keys still managed to immediately bring the monstrous crowd to its feet. Her voice and piano are her tools for the turn-up… and turn-up the audience did.
Throwbacks to hit songs such as “You Dont Know My Name,” “Like You’ll Never See Me Again,” “Unbreakable” (a tune which even garnered a standing ovation in the press box), and “If I Ain’t Got You” gifted longtime fans with a momentous groove session.
One of the most memorable highlights was Keys’ performance of “Fallin’ ” — the first radio single from her debut studio album Songs in A Minor released in 2001. The hit song, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, introduced a then 20-year-old Keys to the world.
In addition to her classics, Keys also showcased a range of songs from her recently released album entitled Here, which explores many facets of the black experience — a fitting subject matter given the night’s Black Heritage billing. Her outstanding collection of backup singers — whose afros were as stately as their voices — echoed her newest musical selections: “Work On It,” “The Gospel,”Blended Family,” “Pawn It All,” and more.
Alicia Keys’ vocals were accompanied by a biker chic meets cowgirl ensemble — a black leather studded vest, fringed belt, and oversized belt buckle were paired with a fierce high ponytail… a native New Yorker’s take on Rodeo style, perhaps?
Of course, her face stayed makeup free throughout the performance. Keys began a “No Makeup” campaign in 2016, vowing to live both her public and private life makeup free. So far, she’s appeared on everything from the cover of Ebony magazine to the Democratic National Convention sans makeup.
She ended the night with an ode to her hometown, New York City, belting out her hit single “Empire State of Mind,” but don’t worry, she integrated a little Bayou City flair into the song’s finale.
“Let’s hear it for Houston, Houston, Houston,” Keys sang before she bid the crowd goodbye.