NEW YORK – Jamie Foxx is clearly a jack of all trades. His dramatic-acting skills earned him an Oscar and his comedy brings audiences to tears. And as for his singing, Foxx’s multiple Grammy nominations and multiplatinum plaque say it all.
The actor/singer/comedian brought all his ammunition to Madison Square Garden on Monday night, breaking his Unpredictable show into two sets: One consisting of straight comedy and the other featuring singing, dancing and a brief resurrection of Ray Charles.
A few days prior to the concert, Foxx checked in with MTV News via telephone from Paris, where we was attending a “Dreamgirls” premiere. “You get the bang for your buck,” he said. “I’m looking for New York to be off the chain. I want to perform. New York is hot, that whole mystique. We gonna kill that one.”
The “we” he was referring to may well have been opener Fantasia, who sanctified the venue with her deep-rooted soul singing. But Foxx proved that he could give the crowd its bang for a buck all by himself.
Starting his set with Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got,” Foxx commanded the crowd to put its “hands up and wave … and wave! And wave!” Wearing blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a red jacket, Foxx stood in front of a giant screen that projected his autograph and opened with his stand-up routine.
“What up, baby?” he added. “I got that Oscar. I’m here to share it with you.”
Foxx then told his DJ to play the “n—a anthem,” Jim Jones’ “We Fly High,” which recurred several times throughout the night. He told the audience that they could be doing taxes, attending church or burying their mother at a funeral, but if by some chance they hear the Jim Jones hit, they are going to stop what they’re doing and break into the dance associated with the song.
At the end of his comedy set, Foxx stepped offstage to change clothes while his DJ kept the music going. A few minutes later, the big screen went up and revealed Foxx in singer mode on a smaller stage with a band, dancer and backup singers. Wearing a white suit, Foxx told the men in the crowd that they could stay if they wanted to, but that the next part of the show was strictly for the ladies.
After warming the crowd up with some slow jams, Foxx dove in headfirst with his biggest hit, “Unpredictable.” “Regular ain’t in my vocabulary,” he sang. “When it comes to love-makin’, neither is missionary/ Positions, girl, pick one/ Better yet some/ Better yet some/ Never mind that, we tryin’ all of ’em.”
If there were any misperceptions about what was on Foxx’s mind, he cleared it up with another hit, “Three Letter Word.” As he sang, he sat on a long couch that looked like it came out of a psychiatrist’s office, with one of his sexy female dancers dressed up to look like the attending physician.
“Sex all the time,” he sang. “Sex on my mind/ Sex everywhere I go/ Sex, I’m tryin’ to let you know. Sex, it’s stronger than any drug, even love.”
Tony Soprano should be this lucky talking to Dr. Melfi: As Foxx sang, his dancer started to strip, garnering an “Oh sh–” from the Oscar winner.
After ballads “Get This Money,” “DJ Play a Love Song” and “Love Changes,” Foxx left the stage for another quick change of clothes and scenery. When the lights came back up, he was sitting at an ivory white piano in the middle of the Garden, on another small stage.
A chandelier hung overhead as Foxx, in character as Ray Charles, began singing “Georgia on My Mind.” The platform on which the piano stood began rotating as he continued his spot-on impersonation. Foxx shouted out the “dime brizzels” who bought tickets, as if Charles were still alive and had picked up ‘hood slang.
The music shifted to Charles’ “I Got a Woman” and “What’d I Say,” with Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” – on which Foxx guest-sung in character as Charles – sandwiched in between.
“Say ohhh,” he sang, with the audience responding to his command. “Say ahhh.”
After running back to the main stage, Foxx smoothed out his finale with the sexually driven “Storm (Forcass).” Although he didn’t preview any new music at the show, the singer revealed during the Paris call that he is working on another album because he wants to stay hot.
“We were very successful with this record and we’re trying to get some of the same elements we had and reinvent [them],” he said. “We’re going to get back with some of those same cats [who worked on Unpredictable ]: Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Game, hopefully Mary J. Bilge.”
Special appearances by Snoop and West have surprised some audiences during Foxx’s Unpredictable run, but on Monday, all he needed was the woman who has been rolling with him on every date: Fantasia.
‘Tasia, as some fans call her, still embodies the spirit of a little girl performing for her family in the living room. At the MSG show, she appeared very personable and free-spirited: The first thing the singer did when she got onstage was tell the audiences she was taking her shoes off.
“They invited the wrong one,” she told the crowd. “I done kicked off my shoes. So for all you ladies who came lookin’ cute … and your feet hurt, kick off your shoes.”
If you never saw her on “American Idol,” don’t worry about it – you weren’t getting the whole package with that show. Without the shackles of a formal contest, ‘Tasia seemed like she loved letting loose, shaking her hips and bringing the soul. Fantasia proved that if she were a star back in the day, when Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle reigned supreme, she might have been hanging with them.
“I ain’t no pretty singer,” she said of her mean-mugging, almost cartoonish facial expressions she displays when she puts extra oomph into her lyrics. “I’m a ugly singer. Be cute after the show.”