Anita Baker | 10.26.07

live_anitabaker.jpgThat first moment hearing her voice was enough to give me goose bumps from head to toe.

 

 

The Fox Theatre, St. Louis

I have long awaited this show, and after experiencing the energy of the crowd, I know I am not the only one. Anita Baker’s talent rises above the extraordinary to where the gift of her music is a blessing. She is a performer who can give you goose bumps, bring tears to your eyes and bring the house to its feet, singing, clapping and dancing all the way.

An immediate sign of her showmanship was giving the band a chance to vamp on the opening number while she warmly welcomed the audience to continue to come down the aisles to get to their seats. It was a capacity crowd of people dressed to the hilt; everyone seemed to know this was an event. The guitar player took a really great extended solo over the groove while Baker encouraged people to relax and be themselves, dancing and singing along as they felt. It was a great way to break the ice and, in the meantime, allow the band a chance to warm up, tweak things a bit, then stretch out and play a bit before she sang her first line.

That first moment hearing her voice was enough to give me goose bumps from head to toe. By the end of the first ten minutes, I felt I had gotten my money’s worth. The stage design was fabulous, with the grand piano and saxophone out front and the backup singers, guitar, drums, bass, percussion and keys all on top of an elevated stage that had an electronic display of colorful images on the front. The understated stage background and the fact that the band was in formalwear gave the whole show a touch of class.

The band was nothing less than top notch, as Baker is known for working some of the finest studio musicians around. The drummer, Eric Byous, had impeccable timing and form all evening, tight and crisp. The bassist was effortlessly filling the bottom end with creative lines woven around the pulse. The saxophonist and the guitarist both threw in some intricate be-bop lines in between their parts. The piano player and keyboardist were perfectly synched from across the stage, guiding the music through atmospheric transitions and keeping it solid during the songs and vocals.

Baker would interact with the crowd in between each song, which generated a lot of excitement with people going up and giving her roses or shouting out songs they wanted to hear. She seemed thrilled to receive such enthusiasm. She even obliged a couple of requests that were not on the rehearsed set list, delivering an impromptu version right on the spot. She pleased the crowd with a lot of her hits that they were calling out, including "Angel," "Rapture," Sweet Love," "Just Because" and, of course, "Giving You the Best That I Got." I was surprised not to hear a few of my other favorites like "Rhythm of Love," "Body and Soul," or "Wrong Man." The show wrapped up a little early, but I had already been thoroughly entertained.

Anita Baker is one of those people you look at and you know exactly why they were put here on this world. What you witnessed on stage with her voice and her band was raw talent without any tricks, gimmicks or pretense. Her songs of love and hope are sung with passion and pleasure. The world could use more artists who deliver that level of inspiration. | Derek Lauer

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