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Sade at United Center | Concert preview

The neosoul forerunner remains the very definition of smooth.

It’s been a decade since Sade set foot in Chicago, and this weekend’s comeback is impressively bold, going head-to-head against Lollapalooza over three nights. Not that there’s much overlap between fans. Think of it as more of a social barometer, measuring how far some of us have strayed from alt-rock allegiance in the 20 years since Perry’s musical potluck sprang to life.

Of course, the long-running group’s namesake Sade Adu has epitomized pop elegance even longer than that, carving out a wildly successful career with her effortlessly dry alto. Her chilled seduction soundtracks are often emotional but rarely vulnerable. Surely her body temperature must be a few degrees cooler than average. And while a lounge seems like the most fitting venue, massive hooks make Sade unequivocally an arena act—summoning quiet storms on “Sweetest Taboo” and a chorus of what’s sure to be thousands singing along on “Smooth Operator.” (Both resurface on this year’s best-of comp The Ultimate Collection, which follows on the heels of last year’s solid-if-stiff Soldier of Love.)

Smooth remains the operative word when it comes to Sade, with simmering grooves reduced to their essence. Call it ironic that at least a handful of Gen-Xers who witnessed Lolla’s original run will be sipping overpriced Chardonnay just a few miles from Grant Park.

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