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Concert Review: Fantasia’s “Sketchbook” Tour Proves R&B is Alive & Kicking

Let me start this by saying that I am very skeptical when it comes to concerts. I am only motivated to catch a concert (or just to go out in general) when I know that it was going to be worth my while. That means that it has to be an artist that I know has enough material for me to dance and sing along to, along with having the stage presence that exudes excitement and wonder. This had to be an artist that I know FOR SURE will be capable of blowing the roof off the place, so much so that it would take a few days for me to even attempt to put into words how amazing that show was.

Thankfully for me, this was one of those shows.

This past Sunday night, as a major blizzard was making its way towards Southeastern Michigan, I took the hour and a half drive to Downtown Detroit’s famed Fox Theater, to check out Fantasia on her latest tour stop, promoting her just-released album, Sketchbook, a project that brings her unique “Rock Soul” sound into fruition with full power. With supporting acts Robin Thicke, Tank, and The Bonfyre on board, this was a show that I was definitely looking forward to enjoy. To make a long story short, it was definitely worth the long, long drive.

Now, if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: It is super tough to win over a Detroit audience, especially as a relatively new act. With that being said, it is safe to say that R&B newcomer The Bonfyre held her own. With her lush vocals and swagged-out stage presence, she won over the crowd. Performing songs from her Ready To Love EP (which includes her hit single “Automatic”) and her latest single with 6lack, “U Say,” I was impressed with how she took classic beats from Biggie and Evelyn “Champagne” King and gave it a fresh spin. She also threw in a cover of Mary J. Blige’s “My Life” into her set, which definitely had the audience vibing along. If this is any indication of where her career is heading after this concert, we can look forward to more great things from this artist on the rise.

As the second act of the night, Tank was, not surprisingly, a fan favorite among the female concertgoers (myself included, no lie). Performing a well-executed setlist that ranges from the romantic to the erotic, his strong vocal range carried him through with ease. He carries himself on stage with tons of charisma and plenty of sex appeal as he navigates through his catalog, from early hits like “Please Don’t Go” and “Maybe I Deserve,” to more recent jams like “When We,” “Dirty,” and “I Don’t Think You’re Ready.” (The latter two are featured on his current #1 R&B album, Elevation.) With every note, he draws you in for a melodic ride, full of lust, love, and passion. For an artist that is known as the “General of R&B,” Tank definitely earned every single one of his stripes and left fans wanting more.

I have to admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for Robin Thicke, even back when he was only going by just his last name, had long hair and was riding his bike through the city in his very first music video. (Yes, it’s been that long.) Following in the tradition of the smooth, soul men before him, his energy was a perfect fit for the Motown crowd. Performing hits such as “Magic,” “The Sweetest Love,” and his recent hit, “That’s What Love Can Do,” he was in top form. Even in light of the recent tribulations in his life over the last few years, Thicke embraced the blessings he has  to guide him through. His set, capped off by a completely triumphant rendition of “Blurred Lines,” solidified his status as an electrifying showman and an inspiring artist.

Finally, it was time for the main event. Early in her headlining set, Fantasia warned that she hoped no one in the audience was there just to “look cute.” Not even going to lie, I was…and I would end up paying for that mistake. This is, of course, a compliment because this former American Idol champion made sure that every single person in the room got their money’s worth AND THEN SOME. As soon as she set foot on that stage, it was no longer a concert. This became an adventure. If you ever go to a Fantasia show, just know that you will definitely kick off your shoes, sing at the top of your lungs to every note, and work up a sweat from dancing. Following in the footsteps of the grand divas before her, Fantasia is a powerhouse in every sense of the word.

Her set is a reflection of not only her own journey, but also the journey of soul music in general. As the captain of this ride, she leads the way from the club to the church, with raw emotion, strong vocals, and a stage presence that you cannot deny. I had a blast as she ran through her repertoire of big radio hits (“Truth Is,” “When I See You,” and her latest, “Enough”) and beloved album cuts (“Baby Mama,” “Move On Me,” and “Collard Greens & Cornbread”). She also gave a powerful salute to Detroit divas Anita Baker and the late Aretha Franklin by covering their respective hits “Sweet Love” and “Giving Him Something He Can Feel.” By the end of the night, she brought the crowd through a spiritual awakening with beautiful renditions of her Sketchbook track “Looking for You” and a cover of Donnie McClurkin’s “Stand,” complete with her own testimony of rising above the tribulations of her life to become who she is today.

As I left the show, I was more than impressed by the high caliber of artistry and excitement that this show brought together. Each artist brought something to the table that was fresh, vibrant, and memorable. This concert was an experience, and Fantasia’s set was truly the icing on the cake. This show is the culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice, and determination, proving that she is definitely not the same singer that we met on TV over a decade and a half ago. She now proudly stands firm in her truth and her purpose as a woman and as an entertainer…and God bless whoever tries to get in the way of her mission.

CLICK HERE for the exclusive photo gallery of the show!


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