Sade performs at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. (June 21, 2011)

Sade performs at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. (June 21, 2011) Credit: Chris Ware

Love couldn't ask for a better soldier than Sade.

Dressed entirely in black, she led her eight-piece band into battle, using her incredible talents to conquer her audience. A hip swivel here, a scrap of metal guitar there, lots of grand sax solos from Stuart Matthewman, the occasional hip-hop beat and, of course, that voice -- it all worked together in the name of Sade's songs of love.

It didn't hurt that her Nassau Coliseum set last night, part of her first tour in nearly 10 years, was essentially a greatest-hits set, with an additional emphasis on last year's "Soldier of Love" album.

And it showed that her time away from the spotlight only made her mastery of smooth, jazz-inflected R&B even stronger, especially in the showstopping "Is It a Crime?"

In a time when big, showy power notes are the mistaken marks of a "great" singer, Sade effortlessly uses her gorgeous tone, well-crafted arrangements and outstanding control to better communicate the emotion of her songs.

She's raised the key of "Hang on to Your Love" slightly to fit her voice better. She's ramped up "Paradise" to include a reggaeton break. And she's played up the trip-hop vibe in "Moon and the Sky."

On top of all that, Sade was also gracious.

"When we came here, it was like 'Crocodile Dundee'," she said. "We were overwhelmed by your skyline. We were overwhelmed by you. We are overwhelmed by you again."

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