By the end of her show in Miami on Sunday night, Fantasia Barrino had left the stage and was singing and dancing arm in arm with fans inside a packed James L. Knight Center.
Commanding the stage and working seamlessly with an awesome seven-piece band including three swaying horn players, Barrino delivered a kinetic show that was a blend of church revival, couples therapy and girls’ night out.
The 26-year-old eight-time Grammy nominee kicked off her 30-city tour – her first as headliner – earlier this month in Richmond, Va., following a troubling episode in her love life that played out in the headlines.
But her fans didn’t come to hear about that. Most of them were standing and gathered around every edge of the stage throughout the confident set, which included songs from her three albums. Her long-awaited comeback album, Back To Me, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 to become her highest-charting album.
Women often shouted out “We love you, Fantasia!” and “All right now!” Couples held hands and rocked on ballads. Even guards off stage bumped their heads as she danced across the stage on uptempo groove "I’m Doing Me." When she paused before hitting the final note on one song, the women in the audience were still singing.
“My number one rule is I will no longer live my life for folk,” she told fans at one point. “One thing is certain. You can’t please everyone. You have to live your life for yourself.”
Barrino pitched the performances well, her gritty alto striking a balance between the energy of songs with empowerment messages and the yearning of love ballads, but she slightly overdramatized vocals on the school-crush number "When I See You" as she played to the adoration of the crowd.
For his opening set, three-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Eric Benet brought a sensual ‘70s vibe, the sound that was the inspiration for his new album, Lost In Time. Women screamed in excitement as the singer threw off a jacket for "You’re the Only One" and reached a simmering falsetto on the deeply emotional hit single "Sometimes I Cry" from the new album.
Fantasia performed at the James L. Knight Center (AP file photo)