"Today we are celebrating the Element of Freedom, World Aids Day, and unity," the 11-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys proudly stated to a crowd of New Yorkers yesterday evening at Nokia Theater in Times Square. An immensely diverse group of adoring AK fans supported Alicia's organization Keep A Child Alive by attending the concert streamed live on YouTube for World Aids Day.
Keys appeared on set like a chic rockstar whose style is now a balance of softness and strength. Dressed in a simple black tank, painted-on black pants with metallic details, black leather jacket (that she quickly removed), fierce kick ass YSL heels and flowing curls, Alicia Keys' superstar presence could not be more felt.
Opening with "Love is Blind," new music from her fifth album, Element of Freedom, the crowd gladly welcomed to take in whatever Alicia belted out. Excited about her new music, only 20 minutes prior to her walking on stage she sat with ESSENCE.com in her round-the-way girl gear: white graphic tee, ripped jeans, and flats to talk about her charity, her new album, and the importance of AIDS of awareness.
"You know a dollar does so much. We can buy $100 pair of sneakers, and $8 mocha latte," says Alicia in her efforts to get everyone involved in a disease that effects more than 14 million children worldwide. "We cannot disregard what is happening around the world, what's happening right here in places like NYC."
"Tonight I am excited to announce that five people will come back to Africa with me to witness that there are so many people my age and younger whose family lives have been torn apart and they have watched their parents pass away from a disease that is treatable," a very sensitive Alicia explains. "I know when I went [to Africa] it really changed my life, it's a part of who I am, and this [trip] can be a part of who they will be."
Reminiscing on her second trip to Africa, Alicia says she had been touched by the culture and the beautiful people she met while there. Much of which led her to a renewed vigor for her music, and finding her freedom in her new album which she shared on the stage last night.
On that stage Alicia served the crowd a mixture of remixed good ole' oldies like "Falling," and wowed them with new music like, "Distance and Time" (click to see video). After bringing the house down with her vocals and two pianos, Alicia Keys asked the crowd: "Are you very very very ready? I think this is the perfect moment, because there is only one place in the whole world..."
Eluding to "Empire State of Mind," New York's newly appointed theme song, causes the crowd to drool in anticipation. Not quite sure of the magnitude of what is to transpire Alicia begins singing her album version "Part 2 Broken Down" of the track, slightly confusing the crowd. Then, like clockwork, as Alicia sings the hook, Jay-Z makes a grand entrance on the stage causing everyone to pop out of their seats. Wearing Gucci all black everything, Jay and Alicia do what they do so well--make New Yorkers proud. After witnessing the energy of the performance, everyone left Nokia Theater assured that the concert was sponsored by American Express, because Ms. Keys was unquestionably "priceless."