Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Another Thing I Probably Won't Do Again

Alicia Keys, 2008

A couple of summers ago Mrs. B and I came into a couple of free tickets to see Alicia Keys at a nearby coliseum. I can’t say we’re big Alicia Keys fans. But we knew a few of her songs and didn’t have anything better to do that night. This particular coliseum has become a popular place for acts to start their national tours. I don’t know if that’s supposed to say something about our market or that the rent’s cheap enough to make it a good place to work out the kinks in a show. Even Phish and The Grateful Dead kicked off their tours here.

I should confess that my wife and I hadn’t been to an arena concert like this since, say, 1976 (Loggins & Messina, opened by the then-unknown Fleetwood Mac). I knew a place seating 10,000 people wouldn't be an intimate venue with a woman and her piano. But to say that this affair was an aural assault on our ears would be understating the truth to an almost criminal level.

The opening act was a young man called Ne-Yo, a "post hip-hop rap and R&B singer," who seems to have borrowed a lot from the early Michael Jackson school of music and dance. He might have been good. He certainly had a flock of anorexic young beauties crawling all over his body. I took this as a sign that the right clothes can apparently make all the difference in a guy's luck with the ladies. But the way the sound was mixed you had to already know what he was singing to understand anything, sort of like when you pull up to a stop light and the car next to you is playing music so loud that the bass line causes your colon to tremble.

When Alicia Keys came on, we couldn’t hear what she was singing, either. It wasn’t that she wasn’t loud enough. It was that the sound was so loud that we could barely pick out the tune, much less the words. Every key of the piano was like a nail driven directly into the brain. Maybe we’re just too old for this kind of show. Perhaps our ears peaked when we heard Jimi Hendrix and the Stones. The friends we were with stuffed their ears with paper. We left halfway through Alicia Keys’ performance.

The evening wasn’t without satisfaction, though. I did enjoy the young lady sitting next to me. She knew every word, every hand gesture and every emotion of every song Ne-Yo sang. When he cried over love lost, she cried. When he laughed at triumph, she cheered him on. She certainly got her money's worth, and her abundant joy made the whole night worthwhile.


  1. Hahaaaa--that's a riot. I remember when I was in high school, (and mind you, I went to a regional Catholic high school) we had groups on campus. Get this--in HIGH SCHOOL, we had Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, The Who, (back when they still smashed all their guitars after each performance) Lovin' Spoonful, and Chicago, to name a few. We used to look out the windows and see people camping on the school lawns to get tickets. And they were cheap!

    I remember my ears ringing for days after some of those concerts, and I'm probably deaf as a result, but they were awesome concerts. I love 'em.

  2. I'm thinking of how I would have laughed at y'all as a pre-teen. But now all I can say is "I feel you....dog." (Still trying to be cool.)