On January 6 I expected no less from Jamie Foxx and Fantasia than a great night of music. I had a hunch that Fantasia would fill the stadium with her signature sound by belting out each note with fierce vocal strength. And it was not so Unpredictable that Foxx would raise the room's temperature with a risqué performance. Neither performer let me down. But what I could not have anticipated was the surprise performance we were in for by one of Chicago's own boast-worthy artists.
From the back of the Allstate Arena, where I waited for clearance, I could hear the venue explode into applause. I made my way to my seat while comedian Speedy cracked up the crowd. Though half of the stadium was blocked off, the remaining open seats were sparse. After a short stand-up routine by Speedy, Fantasia Barrino hit the stage. A fiery ball of energy, she kicked off her shoes and dove right into her performance. Fantasia delivered hit after hit starting with "Free Yourself" banishing all memories of the singer as just a new face on Fox TV's American Idol. She was mesmerizing on stage in a shimmering diva-worthy mini-dress. The star took us back to the old school with expert renditions of "Tell Me something Good," "Purple Rain" and Aretha's "Rock Steady," then hit us with "Bore Me (Yawn)" from her new self-titled album. An interactive performer, Fantasia got the front rows clapping, swaying and kicking off their shoes with her. She showed her sexy side with "I Nominate U" and "When I See U" before taking us back to Free Yourself with "Baby Mama." As quickly as she came to the stage, it seems she was gone again in a stream of clapping, thank yous and kisses blown into the crowd.
Speedy was back on stage keeping the fans in stitches until Jamie Foxx came out to take over the stand-up act. With three Grammy nominations, an Oscar and a multi-platinum status album, Jamie Foxx rolled all his talents into one spectacular show starting with the hilarious stand-up jokes he was long ago recognized for. We weren't likely to forget about his Oscar, especially with repeated mention of it. And his other accomplishments were echoed through a montage of photos from throughout his career. Though we were almost beat over the head with the fact that this man is in fact a superstar, Foxx does exert a certain polished quality that can't be denied, and on this night the performer was gleaming from his shades to his ears to his belt to his shoes. With the new year still fresh, Foxx's stand-up act touched on some specific 2006 memories from the recent Clay Aiken buzz to O.J.'s book to Kramer's crude comments. He held our attention for about 45 minutes with his side-splitting humor.
After his stage exit, the crowd was on the edge of their seats for the musical portion of the Jamie Foxx show. The curtain rose as smoke filled the stage and the spotlight was on the star as he stood almost as if to allow the crowd to soak up his image. Foxx kicked off his singing portion with "Warm Bed" and "Three Letter Word." A flickering flame was projected on the back screen, foreshadowing the level of heat he was offering with his very sexual set.
The sensory-overloaded performance was definitely indulgent and stimulating with plenty of pole dancing, fake dollars falling from the ceiling, displays of Jamie's tongue talents, smoke, lights and small fireworks. He continued with "DJ Play A Love Song" and "Storm" as the heat continued to rise.
After a short break to allow the crowd to cool themselves off from the intense stage show, Jamie reappeared in the middle of the arena's floor. His mannerisms and wardrobe echoed those displayed in the film Ray as he immortalized the legend Ray Charles under a strong spotlight. Taking us all back in time with a surreal representation of Charles, the singer performed "Georgia on My Mind," "What'd I Say" and "I've Got A Woman" at a beautiful white piano surrounded by four female dancers. Once the five made their way back to the main stage, the tune of "I've Got A Woman" lingered on and Foxx hit us with a surprise remix. Chicago's own Kanye West burst onto stage as the two performed West's "Gold Digger." The fans were given an extra special "Extravaganza" as the two performed three songs together. West left us with a freestyle rap and Foxx followed up with "Do What It Do" before saying goodnight. Without skipping a beat though, the dancers were right back onstage with the promise of an encore. The J Records artist came back to perform "Unpredictable" turning the arena's atmosphere to party-like. Overall, Jamie displayed many of his talents on stage and lived up to just the opposite of his album's title, though I don't think many were left disappointed by the performances.