One of the most anticipated shows of the past year or two for me was Alicia Keys coming to Baltimore, so after some delays due to the pandemic and hot off the first date of her world tour, I was thrilled when Alicia Keys recently brought the joy and spectacle of her recent double album, Keys, to the Baltimore Pier Six Pavilion.
I can honestly say that I have never seen a show like the one Keys provided this packed crowd along the water of the Inner Harbor. As the lights went down there appeared a huge circle like a solar eclipse that rose from the back of the stage before changing to brilliant spirals of light as the back of the stage opened, white light pouring out and silhouetting Keys who emerged to massive applause. Starting off the set with “Nat King Cole.”
“I want you tonight to let everything go… all that bullshit,” Keys said to all those in attendance at Pier Six Pavilion on Aug. 3, calling as much to the personal as well as the overall state of the world around us. And for the next two hours Keys laid down the groove that helped Baltimore let everything go, at least for a little while. As the music played, the crowd was engaged, calling back in response to songs like “You Don’t Know My Name” — Whoa (Whoa)… Hey (Hey) — as Keys waved and pointed to those in the crowd.
Moving the piano to mid-stage, Keys was away in bluish light as what appeared to be waves of rain played across the stage as she started on “Un-thinkable (I’m Ready).” The imagery of water, a theme that seems to pop up on her most recent album, Keys, matched the surroundings of the harbor as boats wandered past along the horizon.
After performing a handful of older songs, Alicia Keys left the stage briefly as her band continued only to come back but at a smaller DJ booth adjacent to the main stage. “I live in the Apollo Theater,” Keys told the audience, referencing the legendary Harlem venue.
“I’m gonna play some songs from my new album, Keys,” she said, appearing at a small set up booth off of the stage, as she was surrounded by drum machines, keyboards, and an electric piano. And what happened then was a mini-master class in describing how one song can change in feel so drastically as she asked the crowd to choose between “original” versions and “unlocked” versions of songs that featured on the double album. By the way, Alicia Keys’s new deluxe version of the album with another four unreleased songs was recently released.
Even though the sun had set, the heat lingered as Keys joked about having a bit of a breeze blow over the water. An amazing MC, Alicia Keys kept this crowd enraptured. From the seats in from the stage to across the water where parents and kids, older passersby, and others lined the adjoining piers to catch the sounds from the canopied stage.
Watch a video of the song “City of Gods (Part II)” by Alicia Keys on YouTube:
“Baltimore, you know you my boo, but you know who else is my boo…. New York,” Keys said before going into “City of Gods (Part II).” But it was right afterwards, when she asked the crowd, “Do you wanna hear another song about New York?” that the crowd errupted in applause. As the screen played scenes of that northern city, Keys and her band started on the hit, “Empire State of Mind,” as mid-way through the song Alicia Keys went out into the crowd, singing with fans as the spotlight followed her.
Back on the stage, Alicia Keys continued with what seemed like boundless energy, playing hits like “Girl on Fire” and ending the night with the rush of “If I Ain’t Got You.” Certainly, a night everyone in attendance will keep in their hearts.
Nat King Cole
Truth Without Love
You Don’t Know My Name
Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)
Show Me Love
The Beginning (Interlude)
Is It Insane
City of Gods (Part II)
Empire State of Mind (Part II)
Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart
Girl on Fire
Dead End Road
Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)
Like You’ll Never See Me Again
If I Ain’t Got You