Concert Review: Brian McKnight Live In Melbourne

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For people like myself who grew up listening to RnB music, Brian McKnight was always at the forefront of the genre. The purity and effortlessness of his vocals are unparalleled and his songs are soulful self-composed stories of love that helped create the soundtrack for heartbreak during the late nineties and early two thousands. Eager to revisit the sounds of my adolescent heartbreak I arrived at the iconic Melbourne venue, the Palais Theatre. Just as if the Palais was a modern Noahs Ark for all of the lovers in the world, people arrived alongside me in twos, embracing their loves on a cold Friday night, ready to be serenaded by the king of RnB, Brian McKnight.

McKnight began the show to overwhelming applause and began sharing the timeline of his musical success. He started with his first album release in nineteen ninety-two, sharing entertaining anecdotes about his career as he sang through time. After sharing stories of his own career, McKnight then took the time to pay homage to the greats that have inspired him to become the artist he is today. Among those artists are Prince and Whitney Houston with a highlight being McKnight taming the notoriously difficult song ‘I Have Nothing’, with a little extra help from the crowd of course. After what was mostly love ballads and heartfelt singalongs McKnight unexpectedly played his own rendition of ‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire which got everyone (including me) up on their feet. If the crowd had not already been enjoying themselves with the power of McKnight's voice and his outpouring of love, this song certainly did the trick.

As a testament of his enduring talent, McKnight's music career is only one year shorter than my entire life (I’m 27) and throughout his time as the King of RnB, has amassed many loyal fans. As I learned on Friday night these fans not only use his music as therapy during times of heartbreak but they also like to use it as their own personal vocal challenge. Every run or high note McKnight would make would be accompanied by a large percentage of the audience singing it back, complete with wagging fingers and closed eyes. Believe me, I have taken this vocal challenge many a time and it’s much harder than McKnight makes it look.

Despite a choir of amateur RnB enthusiasts attempting to steal the spotlight, McKnights' voice was as pure and effortless as I remembered it in the early two thousands. The acoustics of the Palais Theatre allowed Brians soulful voice to consume it, with every perfectly hit note delighting every pair of ears inside.

I was, of course, expecting to be amazed by his voice but little did I know of McKnight's instrumental abilities. As only one of four people on stage McKnight showcased his skills as a multi-instrumentalist playing keyboard and guitar throughout the set. Being a master of his craft and amassing twenty-six years of experience in the music industry McKnight was joined on stage by only the best of the best. His talented drummer is on tour while also studying to be a lawyer, his lead guitarist an expert of his craft hand picked from Japan and his bassist, how do I best describe his bassist? Introduced on stage as “Big Sexy” he was the crowd favourite and unexpected star of the show. From his passionate bass face to his own sensual dance break, ‘Big Sexy’ helped light up the stage.

Only four people strong but full of heart, Brian McKnight and his band showcased nothing but pure talent. His stage was minimal and there were no costumes, no crazy lighting, just an incredible voice, passionate musicians and a whole lot of love. Conveniently wearing a sleeveless shirt and responding to “I LOVE YOU BRIAN!” being yelled from middle-aged women all over the theatre, it was apparent, Brian McKnight has still got it.

From the couples who were hugging and holding hands throughout the show or the best friends who had a few too many wines, singing their hearts out to every song, the love in the air was thick. It seems that this was the theme for the night, love in all its vastly different shapes and forms. Whether it is a first love, an old love, heartbreak or even self-love, Brian Mcknight reminded us how love is the thing that connects us and throughout all of this love, his music has been there. I think he put it best when he said “ The only consistent thing in your life is me. When you need someone to talk to I am there when you need a shoulder to cry on I appear. Brians got you”.

Reviewed & photographed by Jordyn Workman