Sade averages a new album about every ten years, so itâ€™s a blessing sheâ€™s followed 2011â€™s Soldier of Love with Bring Me Home, which celebrates her first concert tour in a decade.
Sadeâ€™s music is about creating a laid-back, romantic atmosphere and the albumâ€™s highlights succeed in setting that mood. With its baleful sax runs and staccato verses, the exceptional â€œIn Another Timeâ€ has the lovelorn ache of a 50â€™s torch song. The drum machine dominated â€œAll About Our Loveâ€ from 2000â€™s Loverâ€™s Rock is harmonic heaven accentuated by guitarist Steve Matthewmanâ€™s pinpoint fills.
With shimmering strings and horns straight out of a James Bond film, â€œLove is Foundâ€ starts off sounding like Sade as Edith Piaf, then BOOM, it turns into hip hop/flamenco/heavy metal. Sadeâ€™s voice navigates the crunchy riffs like a siren calling out to ships at sea. The overall affect is confounding but cool and shows a very different side of Sade.
Sade reshapes and redefines her older material. The languid pace of â€œNo Ordinary Loveâ€ is replaced with a more deliberate beat and grittier guitar work, but you can tell by the crowdâ€™s approval that the tougher approach works. â€œBy Your Side,â€ arguably the best tune from Sadeâ€™s last two studio efforts, is bolstered by confident back-ups and Sadeâ€™s increasingly wounded vocals. It also retains the same squawks Matthewmanâ€™s guitar made in the studio version when he slid his fingers down his acoustic â€“ now thatâ€™s paying attention to the small details!
The helicopter-coming-in for-a-landing sound effect brings to mind Pink Floydâ€™s â€œAnother Brick in the Wallâ€ rather than an unusual lead-in for a funkier, fascinating version of â€œParadise.â€ The addition of a fish out of water rapper for the truncated version of â€œNothing Can Come Between Usâ€ is one of the few mistakes on the album. Sade doesnâ€™t need a rank amateur cheerleader to get people to holla when the music speaks for itself.
Sade knows the limits of her sultry voice. She hits a few flat notes now and again, but sheâ€™s propped up by her crackerjack band, particularly Matthewman, who does double duty on sax and guitar.
Sadeâ€™s live act definitely brings it home. Sheâ€™s a smooth operator.