Sep 30, 2010

Marquees of Sade: The British singer's  U.S. tour begins June 16 in Baltimore.
 
NEW YORK — Sade and the band that bears her name are known for their affinity for understatement. So it's no surprise that in announcing her first national tour since 2001, she speaks with a distinct lack of bombast.

"It just seems a natural progression," Sade says. The trek launches June 16 in Baltimore and includes dates through Aug. 30. "Once you put an album out, it's gone, in the ether. Being on stage makes the music tangible again."

The album Sade refers to is Soldier of Love, released in February after a decade-long sabbatical from the recording studio. Soldier made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart and has been certified platinum — confirmation that at 51, Sade remains a pop-soul icon.

In fact, she'll appear alongside Alicia Keys and Jay-Z tonight at Black Ball, an annual event benefiting Keys' Keep a Child Alive Foundation, a charity for children and families with HIV/AIDS.

"Alicia chased me for a couple of years, and she's a very persuasive girl," says Sade, who has a wide smile and earthy sense of humor that belies her cool, elusive persona.

Keys is not alone among her peers in revering Sade's sultry alto and the band's smooth, jazz-kissed hits from the 1980s and '90s. Programming director Alan Light of PBS' Live From the Artists' Den notes that her successful re-emergence, and her reluctance to promote it, "flies in the face of everything marketing people tell you. She makes an argument for the power of elegance and restraint."

Sade acknowledges that she values her privacy. "I've always got so much to accomplish in my personal life, and I see that as separate," she says. That has been especially true since the birth of her daughter, Ila, in 1996. Sade and her partner, Ian Watts, live together in rural England.

"I lived in London till about six years ago, but I'm basically a country girl," Sade says. Still, she's excited to visit different cities on her tour, and Ila will accompany her "at least some of the time. She went on the road with me the last time I toured, but she always went to bed before I went on stage."

Not that Sade's daughter isn't familiar with her mum's singing. "I always express myself with music. I have a friend who drags me out shopping, and when I try on something and she says that it looks good, I'll do this little song and dance. I just sing when I'm happy, you know?"

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