‘South Africa cured my fear of flying’
Aerophobic three-time Grammy winner and R&B legend R Kelly, who concluded his two-city tour of the country yesterday in Durban, claims his first trip to South Africa “cured” him.
“It is a long way from home but I love South Africa and you guys have showed me so much love and so I keep coming back. Everyone knows I never liked to fly but when you have so much love calling you from across the stage, then you do whatever it takes to receive it. South Africa cured my fear of flying,” he said.
His past trip to the country had seen him receive a warm welcome from the Mandela family. The singer reminisced about the incident, calling it an honour and an unforgettable experience.
“I got to meet Nelson Mandela and his family. I ate with them and even did a few songs on his piano. It was colossal. I wish him all the best,” he said.
So it was perhaps befitting that at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Thursday the Pied Piper came to perform for South Africans who packed the venue for his Single Ladies tour that ended at Moses Mabhida stadium yesterday.
He proved through his sterling performances that he was still the “king” of R&B.
Although the Orlando Stadium show started two hours later than scheduled, all was forgotten once the US singer took to the stage.
Famous for his incredible versatility in both singing and songwriting, R Kelly took fans back to the early days of his career when he did songs like Bump ’n Grind and You Remind Me Of Something, much to the delight of fans.
Even the light rain showers could not deter the “R” in R&B from giving his fans the best songs of his career.
“I have been in the game for 25 years and it is hard to choose enough songs to satisfy all the fans,” he had said earlier.
“I am blessed to have written so many songs in my career that my problem is to select as many songs as I can fit in the time supplied.
“Other artists’ problem is to find enough songs to fit in the time they are allocated so I am truly blessed,” he said.
This “problem” manifested on stage as he sang as much material as he could and eventually resorted to merging some of the classic hits into medleys.
The Single Ladies tour, said the divorced singer, was dedicated to women who were not in relationships, who were his biggest fans.
“Over the years I have noticed some of my loyal fans are single ladies and I never put the spotlight on them. This is their show and I want them to know that I see them too and I appreciate them,” explained the singer.
While the title of the tour almost suggests that no men were allowed at the shows, R Kelly said he had something in store for the men as well.
“The men are well catered for too. They don’t have to like the music that I am playing. All they have to do is look around them and they will see single ladies all over. I had this all figured out,” he said, laughing.
The Single Ladies tour was supported by local talent which included songbirds Lira and Zonke.
Asked on whether he would work with local musicians, R Kelly said he would do it in a heartbeat.
“I have never turned down a hungry artist. If you are serious about your music then you always have to have your demos on you and let me hear what you got. To date I still carry my demos on me all the time because you never know,” he said.
Apart from touring the world, the singer is working on the final touches of his his 17th album, called Black Panties, later in the year.
“I named it Black Panties because back home in Chicago when I perform women throw panties at me. One time I had an insane number of black panties on the stage I thought it was a sign from above, and decided to name my album just that,” he said, chuckling.