Soul provider: McKnight performed with a four-piece band, though his solo set on the piano was probably the highlight of the night.
Two decades and 16 Grammy nominations later, the R&B singer is still killing it.
There are so many great things to write about Brian McKnight’s concert in Kuala Lumpur last week. So where do we start? Back at one, of course!
Okay, now that we’ve all got that low-hanging pun out of our system, here’s the actual intro we shoulda, woulda and coulda gone with (sorry, couldn’t help doing one more).
Brian McKnight’s record of 16 Grammy nominations without a win (a record he holds together with Snoop Dogg/Lion) kind of sums up his career – a supremely talented singer/musician who, for the life of him, can’t get the mainstream recognition he deserves.
Maybe it’s because R&B is a niche genre, or maybe he just doesn’t have the star quality of Justin Timberlake or the “adult” appeal (the current euphemism for “sleaziness”) of Robin Thicke; but last Friday at the Putra World Trade Centre, McKnight was simply stunning.
And it wasn’t just because of his trademark vocal gymnastics. Sure, he put in enough vocal runs to finish a marathon, but it was the sheer emotion and effectiveness of his delivery that really had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand.
It was the perfect reminder of what good R&B is all about – smooth music, solid beats, raw emotion and spectacular vocals.
Of course, it helps that McKnight, 45, has really good source material to work with in the first place. After the first set, McKnight, who interacted regularly with the audience, said he’s the kind of songwriter that writes straight from the heart – and that pretty much all the songs he was performing were written by him.
And it’s easy to forget just how many killer songs this guy has. For the real fans at PWTC, his signature ballads like Back At One and One Last Cry are just the tip of the iceberg.
His more traditional R&B jams like Love Of My Life, Anytime, Still and Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda had people on their feet singing and dancing along – as you should be at an R&B show.
McKnight brought a full four-piece band with him who were super tight, but to be honest, his solo set on the piano was probably the highlight of the show. That’s when the essence of his songs really shines through. Plus, those jazzy progressions and turnarounds on the keys were a joy to listen to.
To top it all off, McKnight was really funny and self-deprecating, which probably comes with being a veteran performer of over two decades.
“I see a lot of beautiful ladies out here tonight,” he said. “But I also see a lot of you fellas – I know your ladies dragged you out here tonight! But don’t worry, you are definitely getting some later.”
Keeping to his reputation as a singer of love songs, McKnight also gave some “relationship advice” to the crowd.
“We spend so much time finding someone we can live with; when we should be finding someone we can’t live without,” he said, fittingly before performing the uber-romantic Rest Of My Life.
Ultimately, McKnight’s performance was a reminder that if you write and perform great songs straight from the heart, even after two decades and 16 Grammy nominations, people will be still in love with you. And yes, that is in fact another low-hanging pun.