Keyshia Cole: Nokia Theatre, New York—8.19

Who said R&B was dead? Well if it is, Keyshia Cole is trying to resurrect it. The Bay Area native is embarking on one of her many tours since releasing her debut album The Way It Is in 2005. Her latest “House of Blues Tour” finds her in intimate venues all over the country refreshing our memories of why she’s so dope…in case we forgot.Bringing J. Holiday along for the ride, her latest stop was at New York City’s Nokia Theatre. Despite the uncomfortable half standing room half seated venue layout, the moderately priced drinks made it that much more bearable.The wait for her to actually hit the stage was heavily anticipated as a few unknown artists, such as her labelmate Ray Lavender, tried their best to warm the crowd up for Ms. Cole. Since its hard being an opening act period, they get props for being brave enough to perform a mixture of sugary R&B songs and unpleasing ballads. The new man of the moment, J. Holiday performed a flawless 30 minute set proving that he’s more than just another R&B cat. It would be cliché to say that the ladies love cool J, but they really do! Showing off his vocal chords on unknown songs off his upcoming album plus a tribute to a classic Jodeci hit—and his latest single “Bed”—made more than a few ladies fall victim to uncontrollable screaming. Once Keyshia Cole hit the stage, the crowd got even more excited. Wearing a tight black leather ensemble and new short platinum blond hair-do, upon first glance you might mistake her for Mary J. Blige in her earlier years. The good thing about Keyshia Cole is that she makes music with feeling; a different kind of soul music that get’s you through a break-up without all the tears. The crowd, which included a large amount of men, was right along with her, hands in the air and mouthing every word. Since dancer isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of Keyshia Cole, it was surprising to see her delve into the previously uncharted waters of choreography. Yet it didn’t come off as forced. Her dancing wasn’t too over the top, and worked well with each song. The show’s climax was appearances from Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim on her new single, “Let It Go.” Of course the crowd went wild when Lil’ Kim ran onto the stage, spit her verse and left. Not too much, but just enough to appreciate. It almost seemed like “Ladies Night” all over again. Where the concert lacked in set design and production found on larger tours, it made up for in Keyshia Cole’s performance that came from the heart. She gave the audience their money’s worth which ended up being just enough to tide them over until her new album, Just Like You, drops.