When Sade Says ‘Bring Me Home’ How Can I Refuse?

Bring her home? Okay, but she’ll have to sleep on the couch.

Whenever bands past their prime want to boost ticket sales they inevitably bill it as “The Last Tour.” Dinosaurs such as The Eagles and Kiss have played this card quite successfully.  It’s been a slick way to put butts in the seats despite having done next to nothing in recording any new material. There’s gold in cranking out the moldy oldies for the faithful one mo’ time.

Sade has no need to sucker the fans with this sort of cheap trick. The 2011 Once In A Lifetime tour started in April and ended in December with playing 106 shows in America, Canada, Europe, South America and Australia before 800,000 people and grossing over $53 million dollars. After a decade away from touring the devout fans of Sade know full well it might be another ten years gone before Sade steps back on stage.

The past two years have been unusually fertile ones for Sade with a new album, a new “best of” and a lengthy tour. This spurt of activity will probably be followed by another long hibernation as Sade slips back into another extended stay on the sidelines. Then again, Sade doesn’t play the game of making a record, touring to support it, take a breather then go back out on the road until time to do it all over again. As she always has, Sade Adu ignores what everyone else is doing to do exactly as she pleases.

Both the video and companion CD accurately capture the dazzling audio-visual extravaganza of Sade’s lavish stage show. Adu along with director Sophie Mueller and lighting and production designer Baz Halpin have created a dynamic presentation featuring a jumbo LED screen projecting images while the band performs on a stage featuring hydraulic lifts that raise and lower Adu and the eight musicians and vocalists.

Visually dazzling and freed from wires and speakers the band run through 21 of Sade’s biggest hits while the Smooth Operator herself sings, struts, and dances barefoot for two hours. The concert draws heavily from Soldier of Love and songs that underwhelmed in the studio,  “Bring Me Home,” “Skin” and “Morning Bird” are improved in the live venue. Sade has never been a bona fide jazz act (remember: Sade is a band. Sade Adu is the singer) and “Love Is Found” answers the question, “Does Sade rock?” Yes, she does as the dual guitar attack led by Stuart Matthewman and Ryan Waters offers ample evidence.

There has been no drop off in Adu’s voice though it does get husky at points. Adu has always been more of a stylish stylist who doesn’t rely upon volume and vocal power to overwhelm the listener. The secret weapon is Matthewman’s greatly underrated saxophone stylings, though there isn’t a weak link among the instrumentalists.

Sophie Mueller’s direction is to keep the cameras on the stage where the action is. There are a few shots of the audience happily applauding and dancing, but the star is Adu. At 53, she is still graceful and poised and has no need to express herself the way Madonna desperately seeks validation she’s still sexy. Adu conserves her energy for the elaborate show and seldom engages the audience in patter.

The extras include a 20-minute documentary directed by Muller is the typical “behind the scenes” shots of Sade looking out the window of her tour bus, applying make-up, changing outfits between songs and singing a pretty version of “Amazing Grace” with her back-up singers. It might be worth a look once, but with no interview with Sade Adu herself, it feels unnecessary as if someone said, “Maybe we ought to throw in something as an extra.”

The obvious usage of backing tracks is a minor cheat as the military-style drumming launching “Soldier of Love” too precisely echoes the original recording and there is a string section that accompanies Adu on “Pearls” that is heard, but not seen.

That minor quibble aside, Bring Me Home does an exceptional job of capturing the sophisticated pleasures of the two words that delighted thousands of admiring fans around the world: “Sade Live.”

DVD: Soldier of Love; Your Love Is King; Skin; Kiss of Life; In Another Time; Smooth Operator; Jezebel; Bring Me Home; Is It A Crime; Love Is Stronger Than Pride; All About Our Love; Paradise; Nothing Can Come Between Us; Morning Bird; King of Sorrow; The Sweetest Taboo; The Moon and the Sky; Pearls; No Ordinary Love; By Your Side; Cherish the Day

CD: Soldier of Love; Skin; Kiss of Life; Love Is Found; In Another Time; Jezebel; All About Our Love; Paradise/Nothing Can Come Between Us; Morning Bird; The Moon and the Sky; No Ordinary Love; By Your Side; Cherish the Day

Sade Adu: vocals; Stuart Matthewman: guitar, saxophone; Andrew Hale: keyboards; Paul S. Denman: bass; Leroy Osbourne: vocals, guitar; Tony Momrelle: vocals; Pete Lewinson: drums; Ryan Waters: guitar; Karl Vanden Bossche: percussion

Running Time: 122 minutes Extras: 20 minute behind-the-scenes documentary; short technical documentary, crew outtakes.

A different version of this review appeared at All About Jazz.

When Sade says bring me home you bring her home.

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