R. Kelly Talks Dirty, Admits Having Sex to his Music, Cages Female Fan at L.A. Tour Stop: Concert Review

R. Kelly Nokia Theater LA - P 2012
Kyleen James

R. Kelly Nokia Theater LA - P 2012

The self-proclaimed "King of R&B" ripped through more than 50 songs and 20 years of music in a full spectacle of a set that indulged the fantasies of all in attendance -- especially his own.

When the R&B singer R. Kelly told a packed theatre on Friday night that he'd "like to give you your money's worth by doing a damn show," fans who paid $50 to $125 to catch the Los Angeles stop of his "Single Ladies" tour were elated and, as it turns out, not at all disappointed. 

Between this year's single "Green Light" and a section he called "Kells Karaoke," for which he sat down with his three backup singers for drinks at two working bars, complete with bartenders, that flanked the front of the stage, it was indeed a show, propelled by that ego of Kelly's and the perfectionism it manifests. It's what makes Kelly such a captivating entertainer -- how he gives himself over completely to the performance.

As such, this show had everything fans could ask for: It began and ended with blasts of white confetti as Kells stepped on a prop staircase, dressed in a white leather jacket with lights that spelled "SINGLE" on one sleeve and "V.I.ME" (Very Important Me) on the back. He sang into a diamond-bedazzled microphone as a full band stood in matching white. The concert also had skits, improvised vocals, elaborate props, audience members brought onstage, a catwalk into the pit where Kelly could stroll and gently reach out to touch everyone standing in the front. He sang more than 50 songs in total, not all complete but including the hook and at the very least enough to delight those who came hoping he'd play that one favorite. It wasn't just a show; it was a fully immersive spectacle.

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For Kelly, his ego seems fueled mostly by sexuality. It’s easy to tell gets off on being sexy -- or others finding him desirable -- and admitted as much in an improvised, more intimate section of the set. Removing his sunglasses, Kelly told the crowd, "This is the part of the show where I get to say what's on my mind." What came next was a classic case of TMI, not that anyone was complaining. Kelly admitted to touching himself and having sex while listening to his own music. "I got three kids, three of them, listening to my own music," he said. "You did it, why can't I? It's my own music."

The women of the audience were certainly heard. At points, such as during "Your Body's Callin'," they were screaming after every line of the song, or so loudly in the sexier improvised a cappella bits that it was nearly impossible to make out what Kelly was  singing. Early on, he brought four female audience members onstage to sit at the bars and watch him up-close. And, later, following "Number One Sex," he called out one woman in the front, asking her to prove she's got "that good sex… that bomb shit," singing, "Listen, I'm on the stage, so you tell me how you're gonna go about proving it to me." He bent down so that she could whisper in her ear for a few seconds and stood up, quickly, seemingly embarrassed. "What?" he said, "Are you serious? Baby, I'm R. Kelly and that's some new shit to me."

There were likely a few thousand women in the 7,100-seat venue, screaming and moving for this one man, but Kelly made sure not to exclude the bros who came with their girlfriends and wives. "It's for everyone," he said, and issued the warning with a rap-like cadence, "If you don't keep your game right, keep your game tight, you will be single after tonight."

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To that end, the antics were aplenty. At one point, a gold and white throne was brought out by two squire-like stagehands for Kelly to sit in for about 20 seconds during the song "Slow Wind" (the seat never resurfaced). Later, after Kelly sang part of Antonio Caldara's operatic aria, "Alma Del Core," he spoke with the lights out, exciting the already curious crowd. "I'm in the audience, and I'm sitting right next to you… search for me, find me," he cooed.

Then Kelly appeared, incognito, wearing a black coat, fedora and sunglasses he stripped off as he ran onstage over a blaring guitar solo, leading a woman behind him. In the meantime, Kelly's stagehands had carried out a white cage and one in a doctor's jacket brought out a clipboard with what looked like a waiver, which she signed. He then led her into the cage and bound her arms upwards with shackles, and Kelly --wearing a t-shirt and the vest from his 1993 debut album, 12 Play -- followed her in. The cage was covered and through the shadows it looked for half a minute like a kinky sex den. The woman was then unshackled and led offstage, looking exhausted, and Kells continued his set, unfazed. 

Throughout, the amazing showmanship never ceased, and with such a compact set that fit all 20 years' worth music and so many hits, the audience, which included Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari, could sing along to every single number Kelly churned out. In return, he repeatedly thanked his fans for supporting him for so long. You could even say Kells returned the favor, giving them the best show he could.

"We can't send them off like that," he said after his show closer, the inspirational ballad "I Believe I Can Fly," which was followed by encore of "When a Woman Needs Love." "Let's give them some going home music!" And with that cue, the band launched into "Step in the Name of Love," which got the entire theater grooving and singing along. The last and lasting image: R. Kelly, the self-proclaimed "King of R&B," recruiting a gaggle of women onstage to dance and bask in the glory of everything he'd created.

Set List:

Huff and Puff
Your Body's Callin'
Bump N Grind
Freaky in the Club
That's That
Fucking You Tonight
You Remind Me of Something
Strip for You
So Sexy
Fiesta Remix
I'm a Flirt
Ignition Remix
Go Getta
Number One Sex
I Promise Remix
List Skit
Slow Wind Segment
R&B Thug (a cappella)
Havin' a Baby
Sex in the Kitchen
Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)
Real Talk
12 Play Prelude
12 Play
Slow Dance (a cappella)
My Mind's Tellin' Me No (a cappella)
Feelin' On Yo Booty
Kells in the Audience
Love's in Your Face
Green Light
Karaoke Skit
Karaoke Set
Seems Like You're Ready
When a Women's Fed Up
When a Man Lies
I Wish
Heaven I Need a Hug
I Believe I Can Fly


When a Woman Loves
Step in the Name of Love

Twitter: @THRMusic

Photos by Kyleen James