An Evening with Brian McKnight
It is Friday night at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in downtown Seattle. The house is full, and cocktails are being served to a crowd of mostly affectionate couples at intimate candle lit tables. The exposed and slightly raised stage teases the audience of what will soon come. The stage consists of a polished black Steinway & Sons grand piano, a guitar, a keyboard, and a single microphone. The house lights dim. A baritone voice is heard, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Brian McKnight!"
Award-winning R&B artist Brian McKnight is on tour performing his new show, "An Evening with Brian McKnight." As McKnight navigates his way through the audience towards the stage, I am officially introduced to his fiercely loyal fan base. Female hollers, swoons and yes, even phone numbers are cried out. His well-seasoned voice is smooth, buttery, confident and refreshingly much better live than his studio recordings. I know this because in preparation for his show Brian McKnight was blowing up on my playlist.
For full transparency I'll be the first to say, other than memories of awkwardly dancing to his hit song "Back at One" during a middle school dance, I knew very little of McKnight and his music. Talented yes, but his musical style didn't really speak to me; I guess you could say that I attended his show as a true critic. I admit I had my unjustified reservations that I would be bored out of my mind with love ballad overload.
This just wasn't the case; his show was entertaining, comedic, and had an eclectic set list filled with timely moments of sweetness. McKnight takes us on a musical journey performing not only his songs but also other artists' that inspire him as well. His Nat King Cole rendition was spot-on. I entered the show as a critic and left as a fan.
"An Evening with Brian McKnight" felt much more like a gospel revival meeting led by pastor McKnight, "This is an interactive show, so sing along, and this means you need to open your mouths. Get up and dance if you are so moved to! Can I get an Amen?"
Amen! I found myself shouting aloud with his chorus of fans.
I had the opportunity to interview McKnight a few days ahead of his Seattle performance. It had been a year and a half since he he last been to Seattle, "definitely time to come back," he said. He named the W Hotel in downtown Seattle as his favorite place to stay and relax with his "gadgets, my phone, computer and tablet."
McKnight said he looks forward to every show by warming up during sound check, admitting, "I'm a well-seasoned performer, I get up there and do what I love." He counted LA among his favorite places to perform, saying, "Madison Square Garden was cool, but the Hollywood Bowl is such an amazing venue. With this said, I don't like singing outdoors, but again it is a special place to perform."
He said he would continue to sing as long as fans continued to want to hear him, saying that his show format prevents too many of those crazy fan moments, but also admiting that, "In my younger years clothes were ripped off by fans."
Hold the strawberries (the seeds remind McKnight of bugs) but feel free to use his music as a backdrop for romance -- McKnight said "I'm okay with being the fly on the wall during people's lovemaking escapades."
McKnight continues to do what he loves, saying, "There have been high and low moments. I feel that the fact that I'm still creating music and performing is my proudest moment."
In the face of a changing music industry, he said, "I'm not trying to be relevant, I just may not be. Many in my industry measure success by cars, money, or how many albums one sells. I measure my success and relevancy on I am doing what I love and I'm not planning on changing for anyone."
McKnight said that he has music in his DNA, with tunes, lyrics and songs playing in his head all day long. He is inspired by the music of Stevie Wonder, and has performed with Justin Timberlake and Boys To Men.
McKnight will release a new sixteen-track album on Apr. 2. More info can be found at www.bmcknight.com
"An Evening with Brian McKnight" runs through March 17 at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, 2033 6th Ave, Seattle, WA. For info or tickets, call 206-441-9729 or visit www.jazzalley.com