Austin Concert Review: Alicia Keys ‘Keys to the Summer’

by Ursula Rogers

Alicia Keys ‘Keys To The Summer Tour’ Offers Blueprint to Transformative Concert Experience

Multi-Platinum, Grammy Award winning artist, Alicia Keys blessed Austin as the only Texas stop for her “Keys To the Summer Tour.” In what might be her most inspired tour yet with an immersive 360 degrees show (in the round). The stage exhibited a dazzling display of lights and sound and the entire show was a feast for the eyes and ears. A true delight for any fan of music.

Opener Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye, also known as Simi, gained a new fan that night. Her backup singers and musicians created a vibe of ease and excitement. Simi took the stage with her hit “Love Don’t Care.” With great vocal deftness she sang, “That love don’t care, Who you be, where you dey from, Love don’t care at all, Love don’t care…” Her voice resonated in a powerful way. She graced the stage wearing a sparkling purple outfit and thanked Austin for having her and asked if ‘any Nigerians were in the audience’. There was a sizable cheer from the crowd.

A favorite song of mine was “Woman.” It was danceable with fascinating percussive elements that blended well with her tone. Fans have described Simi’s voice as therapeutic, which can also describe the song’s message. “Woman is a song about uplifting women as much as it is about pointing out the institutional barriers placed on them…” She then introduced a new song, “Stranger.” It was one of my favorites of the night. The performance of “Stranger” included pulsing fuchsia lights and thought-provoking lyrics. “I lost myself waiting for change, I don’t even know where I stand anymore, Shey na love oo, Now I just feel like a stranger, My heart e don put me for danger. Now I’m going to show y’all how we party in West Nigeria!” Simi exclaimed.

I was already moving to the beat, but her words lit up the energy in the Moody Center. It was a party onstage with backup singers, musicians, and fans. The whole venue jammed with the intensity and freedom of a house party. That really encapsulated the performance of Simi. It was especially sweet when one of her guitarists formed his hands into a heart shape for the Austin crowd. I certainly felt the love.

With over sixty-five million records sold worldwide, Hell’s Kitchen’s own Alicia Keys showed us there is “No one” like her. The Moody Center was shrouded in darkness as she belted out the famous first note of her first hit single “Fallin.” As the “I” pierced through the venue, the crowd erupted into cheers. The backup musicians and singers sauntered onto the stage. Finally, the spotlight focused on Keys and her bedazzled piano in the center.

The stage set up was a remarkable sight. In the center was the piano surrounded by musicians and backup singers; flanked by two long catwalks. On one end, the catwalk led into a staircase with an elevated platform (along with four giant screens so fans didn’t miss a thing). I think most fans, me included, were surprised Keys’ set began with such a huge song. Personally, I love the harmonies with her backup singers. When they belt out “Love You” for example. Certain stylistic elements of the song are reminiscent of gospel music. Especially the descent of the word “Fallin’ during the bridge. The diverse crowd sang along with her and continued to do so throughout the night.

Throughout her performance the audience was treated with career spanning hits. Alicia stated how it had been a while since she’d been to Austin and couldn’t wait to be here. After the opening song, she stood up from the piano to walk around the gorgeous set, with smoke and laser displays blasting and creating cool formations. The show was lively and dynamic and was a musical and architectural delight.

As “Karma” rang throughout the venue, crowd participation increased. “What goes up must come down, Now who’s crying, desiring to come back to me” shouted /sang the fans. Ms. Keys moved around the stage with the swagger of a rapper rather than an R&B singer. Dripped in designer Pucci, Piccioli and custom Valentino, Alicia Keys described her tour style in an interview, “I have such an androgynous energy… and I really wanted to bring that… to the forefront,” says Keys of her stage looks. “I see fashion as performance,” she says. “Fashion is art—it’s a beautiful expression of who you are, and who you’re going to transform into.” She effortlessly transitioned into “Diary.”

My teenage heart lifted when that signature piano descent of “You Don’t Know My Name” sampled from “Let Me Prove My Love To You” by The Main Ingredient played. It is truly one of my favorite songs. Keys voice calls back perfectly to old school soul music and her musical dexterity is special to witness in person. For her hit song with Usher, “My Boo”, an incredibly talented dancer joined Keys and he brought a new level of life to the show. He returned for a dance duet during Alicia Keys’ underrated song, “In Common.” Keys ended the main set with “No One” then returned for an encore of “If I Ain’t Got You.” I had to belt it out during these numbers. The music lover in me couldn’t help it.

As someone who has followed Alicia Keys for at least 2 decades, I was impressed not only by the talent, but her raw energy. Her engaging and authentic crowd interactions, flawless song transitions, high energy, and clear delight in music lifted fans to another plane. I wish more artists would consider a 360 experience. There is no doubt it’s a huge undertaking but leads to a more interactive, immersive, personal, and surprisingly intimate show. Keys expressed positive vibes and love during the concert and that resonated with me and the entire audience.

Simi Setlist

  1. Love Don’t Care
  2. Soldier
  3. Tiff
  4. Woman
  5. Duduke
  6. Stranger
  7. Joromi
  8. Smile For Me

Alicia Keys Setlist

  1. Fallin’
  2. New Day
  3. Love Looks Better
  4. Limitedless
  5. You Don’t Know My Name
  6. Teenage Love Affair
  7. Karma
  8. Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart
  9. Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)
  10. Underdog
  11. Blended Family (What You Do for Love)
  12. Holy War
  13. Come for Me
  14. My Boo
  15. City of Gods (Part II)
  16. How Come You Don’t Call Me
  17. The Thing About Love
  18. A Woman’s Worth
  19. Superwoman
  20. Butterflyz
  21. That’s How Strong My Love Is
  22. Diary
  23. Like You’ll Never See Me Again
  24. I Need You
  25. The Gospel
  26. Where Do We Go From Here
  27. Girl on Fire
  28. Empire State of Mind
  29. In Common
  30. No One
  31. ENCORE: If I Ain’t Got You
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