I don’t think a hailstorm, snowstorm, or a full-on blizzard would have kept people away from Mystic Lake Casino in Shakopee, Minnesota. The legendary 17 Grammy-nominated and adult contemporary R&B artist, Brian McKnight, mastered the stage Thursday night. Since (his initial debut in 1992 with his platinum-selling album, Brian McKnight), he has built a substantial fan base with his blend of R&B romance. An eager crowd packed the casino to watch him perform many of his epic love songs. If you know me, you may realize that I am a huge R&B fan. Brian McKnight is at the top of my list with other R&B singers, including Shai, Silk, Troop, Tony Terry, Jodeci, and many more. It was an absolute treat to attend the show and photograph one of my favorite soul singers.
The stage at Mystic Lake Casino stage is fairly large, but I quickly noticed some logistical gymnastics. The drum riser was set up at the back of the stage and was encapsulated by plexiglass to keep the sound lower than normal. I was under the impression that there might be a larger band accompanying him, as I have never seen his show previously; however, when the show started, I noticed a much smaller arrangement. There was only a guitar player, bass player, drummer, and keyboard player arranged together at the rear of the stage. McKnight was front and center which made the aesthetics and arrangement of the stage seem. Even though the stage setting was unusual, the musicians played well during the show. However, personally, I would have liked to see more movement out of the band and, ultimately, more interaction between them. In my humble opinion, there seemed to be a lack of connection on stage.
Now let’s discuss the incredibly talented frontman. McKnight started off strong in his performance and continued unwavering throughout the entire night. Truly, he has not lost his touch, swagger, or vocal ability in the past 30 years. Most impressively, he still has that bright smile and mischievous grin. The way he looks at people in the audience creates an endearing connection with them and makes him a top performer in his genre. One personal observation that I made, as an R&B voyager, is that he fails to intimately connect with the camera, or I should say with the photographer. Although he takes fantastic pictures and looks great on camera, I honestly felt alone trying to get him to interact on a personal level. In my struggle, I was hoping to see the house photographer at some point in time and finally managed to catch him maybe twice upfront for a couple of seconds, but then disappeared. Because the front area is so wide you are essentially alone with the singer. That was a little unnerving, to say the least.
The set started with a cover of Sexual Healing by the legendary singer, Marvin Gaye. McKnight explained that he was paying homage to all the legendary artists and friends that we have lost in the past. Performing these songs in front of the audience gave him joy and he wanted to share their songs once again. Other cover ballads that he performed included, Rock with You by the great Michael Jackson, and I Have Nothing by amazing Whitney Houston. He also performed some of his top hits, such as Back to One and One Last Cry. The audience was completely invested and after two or three songs they began dancing in the aisles and at the front of the stage. It was great to see folks out there really enjoying themselves and practically letting go of their worries.
A little about the dynamics of the audience. The fans were a mix of couples, women, and a generation of older and younger fans. I can truly say there were romantic moments that coincided with certain songs which encouraged many of the women to swoon over “the master of love.” Oh, let’s not forget about the loads of men who were there, well just because they wanted to enjoy his musicianship. At one point in the concert, McKnight told a personal story about his early days of songwriting. McKnight announced that when he wrote many of his early songs, i.e. Back to One, he had never experienced the meaning of true love. At that time in his life, McKnight had never really been in “love” and his songs were just, well words void of meaning. Finally, he said that he met the true love of his life, pediatric Neuro Physiologist, Dr. Leilani McKnight. During the performance, I noticed that he kept looking over to the left side of the stage and that is when I realized his wife was sitting on the side. As he spoke about her, he began to tear up. As his emotional story unfolded to the audience, he began to sing about his true love. Being overwhelmed with his emotions, I began to cry. Following the story of meeting his wife, there was another emotional moment. He began to sing, Can’t Say Goodbye which he wrote about his late friend, basketball great Koby Bryant. In my opinion, this was one of the most emotional moments for McKnight during the show. After that song, the waterworks for everyone flowed, including me.
As the night progressed, there was one amazing song right after another. In addition to songs with his band, McKnight performed several acoustic versions of his songs. This versatile artist, who plays several instruments, also writes much of his own lyrics. He finished the night with an encore, Can’t Take It. McKnight, a former gospel singer, has had quite an amazing career after signing with Mercury Records at the tender age of 19 in 1989. I believe Brian McKnight will continue to have a long, prosperous career and the masses will continue to make a pilgrimage to the master of love every time he hits the stage.
1.) Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye cover)
2.) Find Myself in You
4.) The Only One for Me
6.) My Kinda Girl
7.) Crazy Love (Van Morrison cover)
10.) Get Over You
12.) 6, 8, 12
13.) Never Too Much (Luther Vandross cover)
14.) Rock With You (Michael Jackson cover)
15.) The Beautiful Ones (Prince cover)
16.) I Have Nothing (Whitney Houston cover)
17.) Back at One
18.) 10 Million Stars
19.) Fall 5.0
22.) Still In Love
23.) One Last Cry
24.) Can’t Say Goodbye
26.) Can’t Take It
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As a Minneapolis-based professional freelance photographer and photojournalist, I feel I have a passion for sharing new perspectives of the world. Since picking up my first DSLR camera, I have been hooked ever since. Striving to capture the rawest forms of emotion through my photos, I am determined to make the viewer feel as if they were there too. Whether I am photographing landscapes, families, children, events, or concerts, I feel I have a way of capturing the true essence of the moment and finding the extraordinary in an ordinary place.
I am always looking for a creative outlet through my art, I find myself drawn to concerts as a rock music lover. You will find me right up front in the pit with everyone else. I have documented tours with some of the biggest artists in rock history including George Lynch, Judas Priest, Billy Idol, Slaughter, Vince Neil, Rick Springfield, and many more. I continue to push boundaries with my work and strive to capture some of the most iconic moments that represent the vibe of the artists and crowd as well as the atmosphere of the overall event. I am a contributor for All Music Magazine and a published photographer including features in Guitar Magazine and a feature cover photo on George Lynch’s 2021 solo album. Some of my clients include Morley Pedals, Rat Pak Records, Two Notes Audio, and many more.
“I capture emotions, not images.”