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Melanie Fiona: best live performer in R&B?

Melanie Fiona.

She’s released two albums, the most recent of which, The MF Life, received critical-acclaim and Grammy nods. She’s already toured with Kanye West, recorded with Drake, written for Rihanna and numerous other stars. She’s easily one of the most talented vocalists in music today.

And on a blustery December evening at the Gramercy Theater in New York City, the Toronto-born singer with the big voice and magnetic charisma put on a show that would shame a thousand other would-be divas. In a genre that seems to owe more to Janet than Patti these days, Fiona is an artist who’s reputation hinges on that remarkable voice.

Fiona hit the stage with the energy of a prize fighter, backed by a guitarist, keyboardist and drummer, with only two backup singers—and proceeded to blow the roof off. Tearing through her catalog, with rousing renditions of “Johnny,” “Rock Paper Scissors,” “Change the Record,” performing perfect covers of the Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back” and David Guetta’s “Titanium,” transitioning from her own somber slow jam “4 AM” to the vocal acrobatics of the heartbreak anthem “It Kills Me,” Fiona owned the stage for more than an hour.

And everyone in the building was transfixed.

She toyed with the crowd, shouting out New York City and her own multi-cultural heritage. She even took requests from the audience, proving her always-ready performing skills aren’t limited to a practiced set list.

By the time she closed with “Gone and Never Coming Back,” she’d given her loyal fans all that they could’ve asked for in a show. And she also converted some non-believers.

“My girl asked me to come out and I thought she was talking about Fiona Apple!” laughed one stunned concertgoer as the lights came up. “But I’m glad I came—she is amazing!”

With talent like this, and shows this rousing, it’s hard to believe that anyone will be mistakening this diva for anyone else any time soon.

She is in a league of her own.

–          stereo williams