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Oleta Adams

Jazz Vocalist

Fri, June 25 Fri, June 25
7:30pm 9:30pm

“Get Here” once again and experience the unmistakable sound of OLETA ADAMS’ gospel roots at Anthology! After being discovered by members of Tears for Fears in the late 80s, she launched a 20-year music career studded with six Billboard Top 40 albums and nine Top 40 singles.

Sound Observations From Oleta Adams

By David Moye

Song interpretation is by no means an exact science. That’s why so many singers can sing the same song in different ways.

For Oleta Adams, who is famous for her 1991 hit “Get Here,” performing a song is much an act of psychology as art.

“When I first consider a song, I look at the lyric and think of what the writer had in mine,” she said while sitting in her home in Kansas City, Missouri. “Sometimes, it’s right there in front of you and other times, you need to look for it.”

Adams performs June 25 at Anthology and, being a woman (but not a “Woman In Chains” even though that’s the title of her 1989 hit duet with Tears For Fears), maybe it’s fitting that she compares song interpretation to shopping.

“It is like shopping for a dress,” Adams said. “There are different designers and style and you have to find one that fits your body type.

“I love to sing songs with emotions, but I don’t like vocal pyrotechnics.”

Continuing the dress metaphor: Some people like shopping with a friend who can tell them how the outfit looks on them. Not Adams.

“I really am the best person to pick a song for me,” she said. “I know the limitations of my voice. The sound of it is distinct and I know what I can do and what I won’t do.”

For this daughter of a preacher man, that means hip-hop is not on the list, but more for musical reasons than anything else.

“Rap doesn’t have a direct melody. If a song is built around that, you can dress it up in your own way,” she said, dressing up the metaphor even further. “Other songs are built more around riffs and if you can’t sing it right, it doesn’t work.”

Adams figures her “low, rich voice” doesn’t work well with the riff songs – and that’s OK with her.

“People expect a certain kind of song from me,” she said, adding that while “Get Here” is her career song, she usually can’t get out of a show without singing her rendition of Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” or Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross.”

Still, while some other singers approach their songs with new eyes and ears each time, Adams believes once a song interpretation is set, she sticks with what works.

“Some people like to do a song differently each time, but I like to do it as if the audience is hearing it the first time,” she said. “Take ‘Get Here,’ I actually had been singing it nightly for years. Sometimes I would stretch it out for 20 minutes trying out new things, until I found the best way to perform it.”

At this point, Adams leaves the dress-up metaphor in the closet and switches to something a little more comfortable to explain her approach to singing.

“A voice is a muscle,” she said. “And bringing a new emotion each time you do the song is like a marathon of sprints and I do that two hours a night.”

Friday’s show marks the third time Adams has played Anthology and while she is popular stateside, she also spends much of the year touring Europe and Japan, where she has had a lot of hits as well.

So does she adapt her shows to each country’s audience?

In a word: No.

“I’m paid to sing and play the piano and that’s what I do,” she said. “The shows don’t change but the reactions of the audience do. For instance, I always perform gospel and American audiences are more likely to do the call-and-response, whereas Japanese audiences might sit there and applaud at the end – that’s what they’re used to.

“But there are lots of times after performing where people will come up and say how much they enjoyed that part of the show and how they’re not used to hearing people put so much emotion in their voice.”

“Oleta Adams performing live. I think you should surrender yourself to a great treat.
Forget politics and the office. Just kick back and fall into a dreamy, glossy evening
of upbeat, fantastic, incendiary singing.” -The San Francisco Chronicle

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