Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Catching R. Kelly in concert at this stage of his career, now 29 years in, is a complicated affair. After all the legal troubles and accusations of sexual misconduct, the Chicago R&B singer continues to do what he's always done: be outlandish. Whether that means appearing in a music video (which never gets released) where he impregnates Lady Gaga or simply goes on a tour called the Black Panties Tour, R. Kelly, public figure and performer, will continue to do what R. Kelly do. And Halloween night, he did just that at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie.
But if being a fan of the 48 year old remains an exercise in cognitive disonance, you'd never know it from the still-rabid fan base who shows up at his concerts — nor from the performance that he puts on. As a straight-up entertainer, the Chi-Town legend arguably hasn’t a missed a beat. On Saturday, in fact, he was left to do it all by himself: Due to inclement weather, opening act, Jazmine Sullivan couldn’t make it into to town leaving a few fans disappointed resulting in the venue offering refunds. Nonetheless, the countless other dedicated fans stuck it out anticipating a "freaky" time to remember.
Viewing his work in a vacuum, it's hard to argue with Kelly's musical output. Throughout the last three decades, R. aka Kellz has released a vast multitude of jams ranging from themes of family-friendly dance tunes, anthems of self empowerment, ballads remembering lost loved ones, flamboyant theatrical Broadway-esque numbers and some of the English languages’ cleverest (or flat-out most ridiculous) sexual innuendos. He is one of the most featured producers in the industry, including Jay-Z. In turn, the “Pied Piper” called on Lil Wayne and Jeremih to help capture the modern rap sound on his brand new single, “Switch It Up.” Fans can expect his upcoming album, Buffet, to be released somewhere in the near future, but in Grand Prairie Kelly relied on a set list of his golden era hits and other chart topping singles.
Event staff offered a few lucky ladies tickets to the main floor moments before the show began. My friend assumed it was to get a greater vantage point for frisbeeing panties onto the stage. The show began as the venue turned to pitch black. Screaming fans knew the time while being warmed up with a sequence of dazzling lights sequences and instrumental mix of Kellz’ more memorable cuts. First was “This is My Story,” a song about his rags to riches come-up. A wad of money was thrown off the stage by the Chi-Town legend keeping it true to life reminiscing his older work with Fat Joe and Lil Wayne on the “Make It Rain Remix.” The stage was decorated with a full bar, bartender, a select few of attendees — once again, you guessed it, ladies — seated on couches, a DJ and his turntables. The entire crowd was compelled to stand and sing along instantaneously to a blitz of energetic, anthemic tracks.
Throughout the night, the congregation danced like no one was watching, laughed hysterically and in some instances sang the majority of the song in unison like a gospel choir. At one point, Kelly joked that the crowd was a bit off key after attempting to nail one his patented falsettos. In turn, one fan explained, " We're singing most of the songs. I want my money back." She then proceeded to breal into a dance number mid-sentence, as the DJ kept spinning hit after hit. The set list prepared was that powerful. The place stayed enthralled by joints like, "I'm a Flirt," "Go Getta,'" and some of the most catchy remixes under the sun.
During intermission (that's right, intermission), there was more theater thrown in as the crowd was asked if they would want "The King" to take it back to the old school. Receiving a surprising amount of feedback, Kelly did a few crowd favorites as requested by the fans. He even went as far as saying he felt like he was performing at home and the D had some "real R. Kelly fans." (We know you say that to all the cities, R.)
A lot of folks are convinced that R&B is dead or in need of CPR, and with all the baggage that he brings along with Mr. Robert Kelly may not be the one to save it at this point. But he can still put on a hell of a show, and as he proved at Verizon, he'll keep doing that much the way he's always done it.