On April 22, I went to see R. Kelly perform at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo. The interior and size was very similar to the Tower Theater in Philadelphia which meant there were no bad seats in the house. Over the years, I have not been the biggest R. Kelly fan. The only album I owned, before my recent purchase was R. I can’t deny that I have rocked to his songs as they were played on the radio or in the club, but I was never compelled to buy his music or pay to see any of his concerts. Lack of overall interest coupled with his alleged sex scandal, I vowed to turn a def ear on R. Kelly.
However, with the release of his 2010 album, Love Letter, I became a converted or born-again fan. When I saw Kelly perform in the opening of the Soul Train Awards I was blown away. I appreciated the throwback performance, his voice, his classy appearance, and the lyrics to his new song, When a Woman Loves. Musicians are the biggest actors of all – effortlessly writing songs about love, romance, and happiness, but often live quite remotely from the songs they woo us with.
However, I felt some redemptive qualities in this song as it came across as much more than a love song. Rather, it’s a soul crying out for salvation and forgiveness. It’s not the first time a musician has brought this same force to a song. Remember Chris Brown as he broke down singing Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror at the BET Awards in 2010? While many coined his tears crocodile tears or mere publicity, there is no doubt that Chris Brown was or shall I say is experiencing some inner turmoil – but who isn’t? Unfortunately, public figures don’t have the luxury of negotiating the tough terrain of life in private as their pain, hurt, and humiliation are blasted on the front page of the gossip columns.
Through time, however, people forget, forgive, and move on and that is just what I did at the HMV Apollo as R. Kelly took the stage in front of a packed house. From the moment he stepped on stage after a 10 plus year absence from the UK, the crowd was on their feet. It felt more like a party than a concert and Kelly pumped us with hit after hit. There were no dancers, elaborate stage set-up, or outfit changes – just Kelly with a small band and two back-up singers. I Stepped in the Name of Love and by the end of the night everyone was Happy People.