Basement Music: The Black Keys at Little Caesar’s Arena
I’m late and parking is a fiasco. I park across the freeway and take a Lime scooter to the arena.
Modest Mouse is already on when I get through security. Their sound pounds through the steel and stone.
Everything is so glossy and new in here. So brightly lit and corporate.
I walk around the whole mezzanine trying to find my entrance. They’re playing Float On as I take my seat on the floor, in the last row of the first section. They are fucking loud.
The arena crew has written on the main floor with chalk. I’m right in front of the sound engineers.
The noise is powerful.
Isaac and the boys do their thing. Isaac’s wife is up there somewhere. What a thing, to be able to play a nearly-full arena like this with your friends and wife.
I feel the bass drum in my core. I’ve bought a slice of Little Caesar’s pizza, a nice big thick deep dish one, and a large Diet Coke. Mmm.
They finish their set, then Isaac decides to do one last song. They do the song. I don’t know enough about Modest Mouse (other than Float On) to name the song.
I look around.
“Oh, so here’s where everyone I went to college with got off to.”
It’s like 2007 again. Everyone is slightly older than me. Most everyone is white and suburban and mild-looking. It’s hipster central, but polite hipsters who won’t judge you for liking this album more than that album. They’ll nod and sip their Moscow Mules and adjust their glasses and stroke their goatees or fiddle with their dyed split ends.
All the girls are pretty damn cute. They look like baristas and think tank interns. They shake their thicc hips to the music. Their boyfriends stand with their arms crossed.
The arena is a godlike space, the sound is godlike. Corporate Colosseum. Immense, cavernous.
The Keys arrive.
I feel joy upon seeing them ascend the stage. Patrick is first, way taller than I thought he’d be. Then the band — bassist, guitarist, guitarist/keyboardist. Then Dan. They exude regular dude-ness. Dan and Patrick are out front, the rest of the band behind them on risers.
There’s a big Black Keys light-up marquee sign above them. They open with I Got Mine.
Next is Eagle Birds and Tell Me Lies. The marquee is lifted away. A huge curtain behind them has images projected on it.
The sound is muted. I don’t know if it’s just me. Modest Mouse was blowing the doors off. These guys sound like they’ve turned down their amps.
Then they play Gold On the Ceiling and everything comes on — bass, drums, etc. Wow. The curtain screen falls. Stage lights blast. The show has officially begun.
Dan puts his fist in the air, sipping bottled water.
“Damn, you guys are feeling good tonight,” he says.
The setlist goes. Dan toasts us with his water again and again. Patrick looks like he’s at work, concentrating a little too much. He’s not super tight, but we get what we paid for. I think about him talking about his anxiety on Joe Rogan the other week. I can see it on him, but maybe that’s just projection or something.
People hold up lighters and cell phones for Walk on the Water.
They do 10 AM Automatic, then “another from the basement” — Your Touch. This is the band I fell in love with. A real crowd pleaser set. They do Thickfreakness, everyone a grooving sea of nodding heads.
They play all their hits. There are no deep cuts or experimental jams. Even the stuff from their 2014 snoozefest Turn Blue kicks pretty fucking good in this godlike space. From the basement to the arena. The American Musician’s Dream. The .00001 percent. The miracles. A band like them couldn’t happen today, just like a band like Nirvana or the Pixies couldn’t happen.
The setlist flies by and their job is done. They close the set proper with Lonely Boy, everyone singing along. They close the encore with She’s Long Gone. They wave at us all the way off the stage, which I’ve never seen any band do before.
I go out for a drink with one of the thicc-hipped girls sitting next to me. We trade numbers but I haven’t heard from her since.