Entering the Arena

I’ve only been to a handful of arena-level concerts in my life – the sorts that fill up basketball arenas and warrant ticketing services from Ticketmaster or Live Nation. Off the top of my head, I can only recollect Radiohead, Blink 182 and Lil Wayne – artists whose fame and influence simply can’t be contained by small to midsize music venues.

I was slightly apprehensive about seeing The Black Keys headlining their own arena tour. I love that band, but basketball arenas hold a lot of people. When I think Madison Square Garden – I think Foo Fighters and Lady Gaga and LCD Soundsystem (RIP). I acknowledge The Black Keys’ exponential rise in fame (which I correlate to the release of their fantastic 2010 album, Brothers), but I wasn’t sure how they’d fare in a basketball arena.

Turns out – they fare just fine. I have only seen The Black Keys perform at massive festivals like Austin City Limits and Outside Lands; at said festivals, common symptoms that affect attendees involve sunstroke, lethargy and shortened attention spans oftentimes induced by judgment impairing substances.

But The Black Keys did not shy away from the big stage at the Frank Erwin Center last night – they completely embraced it. The Black Keys soaked in the strobe lights and balcony seats and captivated the entire audience throughout the entire set, which lasted well over an hour.

The band mostly performed tracks from Brothers and El Camino, but dabbled with older material from their catalog –Thick Freakness, I Got Mine and Strange Times being crowd-pleasing favorites. They also split time performing as a full-bodied band with keyboard and guitar and playing songs as the unstoppable iconic duo that they are. It’s impressive how two individuals are capable of creating so much noise and sustaining so much energy, but The Black Keys looked like seasoned professionals and sounded like it too.

The band certainly didn’t skimp on production value either. A/V quality was over the top – strobe lights, stage lights, cop lights, flash lights, spotlights, streetlights – all of the lights. I didn’t think their encore could top the high-energy closer, Lonely Boy, but when the band opened the encore with my favorite Black Keys song, Everlasting Light , accompanied by an enormous disco ball reflecting lights and colors across the entire stadium – I was teleported back to a better time. The sweet melody and production reminded me of a slow-dance at a high school prom. But better yet, it reminded me of listening to the first few notes of the very first track of Brothers for the very first time – and I loved that moment.

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