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Originally published March 8, 2013 at 9:54 AM | Page modified March 8, 2013 at 9:50 PM

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Alicia Keys sets the world on fire at WaMu Theater

Alicia Keys kicked off her 2013 “Set the World on Fire” tour in Seattle on Thursday, March 7. The seamless show lived up to its name, and then some, writes Seattle Times freelance rock review Gene Stout in this review.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Concert review

Alicia Keys didn’t need flash pots and other pyrotechnics to set the world on fire Thursday night.

At the opening of her 2013 North American tour at WaMu Theater, the Grammy-winning singer, dancer and producer accomplished that feat with a nearly two-hour concert of powerful anthems, soulful ballads, inspirational messages and split-second choreography.

Keys’ “Set the World on Fire” tour follows the release of her 2012 album, “Girl on Fire,” whose title track has become a career-defining anthem.

If the New York-bred artist had a case of opening-night jitters, it wasn’t apparent. Keys was poised and confident throughout the concert.

Indeed, the two-hour and 45-minute show ran smoothly, with no obvious glitches and just enough slow-paced moments. If the show had a fault, it was Keys’ tendency to gush a little too much.

The sold-out concert opened (and closed) to the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Keys entered the stage in a cone of brilliant blue light, the first of many high-powered lighting effects. The sound, at least on the main floor, was clean and crisp.

Dressed stylishly in wide-brimmed hat, black tuxedo pants and a tightfitting jacket, Keys was accompanied by four dancers, three background singers and a four-piece band. (Her husband, producer Swizz Beatz, and their 2-year-old son, Egypt, were standing near the sound mixer early in the show, unnoticed by most concertgoers.)

Keys spent much of the concert seated at a grand piano, demonstrating years of classical training. The yearning, lovelorn ballads “Tears Always Win” and “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart” were particularly moving.

But several high-energy songs performed with her dancers, such as the sexy, sultry “Unthinkable (I’m Ready),” were absolutely electric.

Keys saved her biggest hits for the latter half of the show. “Fallin’ ” (her 2001 smash) brought the crowd to its feet. Before singing “No One,” Keys asked concertgoers to “help light up the sky” by thrusting their cellphones in the air.

“New Day,” “Girl on Fire” (which opened with Keys on drums) and “Brand New Me” were explosive R&B anthems. (Keys introduced “Brand New Me” as a song about “being unafraid to become the person you are meant to be.”)

Keys closed with a powerful, hip-hop-styled version of “Empire State of Mind (Pt. II) Broken Down,” a vivid song about her hometown. The audience cheered when she substituted “Seattle” for New York.

Opening for Keys was up-and-coming R&B star Miguel, who performed a sexy, soulful 45-minute set of songs, including “Adorn,” “Kaleidoscope Dreams” and “Do You (Like Drugs).”

Gene Stout: gene@genestout.com

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