Sade knows how to make the most basic movements look sexy: the snap of a finger, a quiet smile, a nod of the head. She’s a master of subtlety, and, much like her music—soulful, smooth and sincere—her performance on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 12,000 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena conveyed an aura of understated sexiness that, at times, felt hypnotic.
At least that’s what Bita Shokouh thought. Shokouh, a 30-something optometrist from West Hollywood seated next to me, has been a fan of Sade since she discovered her music more than 20 years ago as a teenager growing up in Tehran, Iran. A friend had returned from America with a cassette tape of Sade’s first album, and although Shokouh, who spoke no English at the time, didn’t understand a word of it, she was immediately captivated by the soothing quality of Sade’s voice.
Sade’s Vegas show succeeded in its stripped-down minimalism, which allowed her vocal talents, and the strength of her eight-piece band, to shine. A video montage of a young Sade frolicking on the beach, and stunningly simple staging during her rendition of “Pearls,” were superb and never felt like a gimmick or a distraction. For more than two hours it was just Sade, front and center, with her hair pulled back and wearing black for most of the show, doing what she does best: seducing an audience with her voice and her sincerity.
It’s a seduction that’s hard to resist, especially for someone like Shokouh, who connects years of memories—ones that span entirely different regions of the world—with Sade’s music. She saw Sade twice in LA during her last concert tour in 2001. It was Shokouh’s birthday, she told me, and two ex-boyfriends had asked what she wanted. She told them both she wanted to see Sade, and they each obliged by buying her tickets. She saw the show on two consecutive Saturdays—unbeknownst to her exes.
I asked Shokouh what it is about Sade that makes her so compelling and sexy. “What is sexy?” she asked in return. “Is it bells and whistles? Is it lingerie? Or is sexy just an aura?” For Sade, the latter clearly sets her apart.
And was it worth waiting 10 years to see her in concert again? “Absolutely,” Shokouh said. “There is nobody else like her. She is one of a kind.”