Alicia Keys’ Stunning Summer Tour – A Review
On Thursday, July 27, Ball Arena came to life with a stunning performance by one of the most talented musicians of our time. Alicia Keys, a Grammy Award-winning multi-platinum singer, pianist, songwriter and composer filled every inch of the arena with an impressive two-hour delivery of her most-loved songs. The music, lights, and entire vibe of the “Keys to the Summer Tour” were a gift that will keep on giving long after the final note was played. Clearly the key to this summer – is love.
Love songs are Keys’ specialty, with a body of work that plays as a heartfelt message to people from all walks of life. The audience, which represented Denver’s beautiful diversity, was full of impassioned fans from every race, color, generation, and creed. As the queue lined up outside of the doors, excitement buzzed in the air and it was evident that loyal supporters of Keys’ music have been rocking with her since the very beginning.
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Keys was just 14-years old when she began writing songs for her debut album, “Songs in A Minor,” released in 2001. The classically trained pianist arranged and produced a majority of the project herself, introducing an innovative hybrid neo-soul subgenre that blended influences of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, blues, soul, and the delectable classical sound she became known for.
When the album dropped, the music world changed forever. “Songs in A Minor,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, earned five Grammy Awards and has sold over 12 million copies worldwide. In 2022, the Library of Congress preserved the septuple platinum recording in the National Recording Registry, certifying its status as a classic and important contribution to the world.
Since her debut, Keys has gone on to create several more masterpieces. Fans were delighted when she released “The Diary of Alicia Keys” two years after her first monumental work of art. After her second consecutive number-one debut, she released a live “Unplugged” album in 2005, followed by “As I Am,” (2007), “The Element of Freedom,” (2009), “Girl on Fire,” (2012), “Here,” (2016), “Alicia,” (2020), “Keys,” (2021), and a Christmas album titled, “Santa Baby,” (2022).
The succession of her stardom has followed the course of our lives; for many, the songs listened to in the early days of a decades-long romance are now enjoyed by children and grandchildren. Keys somehow composed timeless songs, tracing her journey of love and self-discovery in a way that listeners have related to for all these years. Yet on stage, Keys embodies the energy and charisma of the 20-year-old woman she was when her first single, Fallin’, was released.
After a lively opening performance by Nigerian singer and songwriter, Simi, left the crowd swaying to her Afro-soul rhythm, darkness fell. The crowd held its breath, eagerly awaiting any glimpse of the headlining superstar. Finally, Keys’ voice emerged from behind the shadows as she belted out the sultry opening of her beloved first single. She climbed to the stage, repeating the opening cry, “I keep on fallin’,” and the crowd went wild.
Standing at a sparkling, platinum grand piano adorned with her “AK” key-inscription logo, Keys belted out the remainder of the emotionally-dense ballad before welcoming the audience to the show. It was the perfect opening for a perfect night.
The ambiance set by a centerstage and arena-long runway lent to the show’s perfection, but the lighting was the real showstopper and helped boost the concert to another level. Keys shared her excitement on her Instagram account after seeing the setup for the first time at the start of the tour.
“When you see it in person, it’s stunning! It’s beautiful. The symmetry is gorgeous,” she exclaimed. Ancient culture, which has been an important theme in Keys’ life and career, was well-represented by an illumination of sacred geometry, including a pyramid constructed by bright, white beams of light.
Two large screens hovered over the runways; throughout the show, they displayed images to match each song. During Unthinkable (I’m Ready), a beautiful water-based interpretive dance graced the screens and echoed an intensely passionate portrayal of each word. Later in the performance, a montage of women from New York played as Keys sang the empowering Superwoman ode to womanhood.
Keys moved through an extensive setlist that exceeded the anticipated 24 songs; tickling the keys of her iconic grand piano, and be-bopping down the runway with a funky fresh vibe straight from the streets of New York City. Twice during the show, the Denver audience momentarily forgot its Colorado roots – if someone didn’t know better they’d have sworn the arena was full of New Yorkers during City of Gods (Part II) and Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind.
Throughout the night, Keys created intimacy with the crowd, absorbing its energy and returning the love and enthusiasm tenfold. The first part of the concert was high-energy – the audience sang along to some of her most popular singles like You Don’t Know My Name, Karma, and Teenage Love Affair, coupled with songs from her more recent albums like Love Looks Better and Underdog. The band kept the tempo, transitioning seamlessly from one song to the next.
Keys revealed the true key to this and every summer – love – during a brilliant performance of Holy War, with a stream of lasers flowing around her. She sang a powerful message, “Maybe we should love somebody. Oh, maybe we could care a little more.”
Just before the show’s midpoint, Keys sat on a grand staircase at one end of the runway and asked the audience if they could relate to the next song. As the melody of My Boo began, dancer Jared “JJ” Allen arose from the top of the staircase and added to the entertainment with an endearing dance rendition of the duet.
JJ carried the show into its second half with vigor and dominance thundering through his every move. He captivated the audience with each explosive and booming motion. Keys left the stage wearing a shiny, green, and white ensemble and white framed sunglasses. She returned to the stage, perched at a decorated upright piano and wearing a gorgeous, shimmering black two-piece jumpsuit, cloaked with a matching overcoat. This part of the show was personal; Keys sang her rendition of Prince’s How Come You Don’t Call Me, followed by A Woman’s Worth. Then she returned to centerstage and serenaded the crowd with Like You’ll Never See Me Again.
A glowing halo of light surrounded the stage as Keys removed her overcoat and prepared to belt out, Girl on Fire. The party was on again until the very end of the concert. She model-walked down the entire runway and performed a cover of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics, as the audience danced along gleefully.
By the time she sang her final song, No One, Key’s vocal chords must have been on fire, but the audience wasn’t ready for her to go. A thunderous encore brought her back to the stage and with phone lights raised and covering the arena, If I Ain’t Got You, one of Keys’ most-cherished ballads, was played as her final goodbye.
The Keys to the Summer Tour is an ode to Keys’ hard work, famed career, and unparalleled place in our hearts. She left it all on the stage, along with band members: Damo Farmer (Bass), Q (Keyboards), Garrison Brown (Drums), and background singers Norelle Simpson and Curt Chambers (Guitar). From a technical standpoint, the absence of stagehands and distractions with the use of only one visible photographer was refreshing. The stage seemed to elevate over everything, with lights and haze creating a cloud-like effect. It was the embodiment of a dream come true.
Keys herself, was a marvel. Her ability to sing for two hours on a 22-date tour is an astonishing feat that only a Superwoman could achieve. Thankfully her discography lives in my collection so that I can relive the moment again and again.