Cosmopolitan

Las Vegas deserves better than to see bands like The Black Keys in ballrooms

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The Black Keys rocked the Chelsea, the Cosmopolitan’s ballroom.
Photo: Bill Hughes

The Black Keys at The Cosmo: 2/20/11

The Details

The Black Keys with Big Boi
Three and a half stars
The Cosmopolitan, February 20

Cosmo’s claims notwithstanding, the Chelsea is no “state-of-the-art entertainment venue.” It’s a converted ballroom, and its makeshift stage and metal bleachers can’t conceal its glass chandeliers and printed carpet. That’s nothing new, of course; Las Vegas has tucked live music inside random casino halls for decades. But sitting in a ballroom for B.B. King or Loretta Lynn feels entirely different than trying to rock out in one to of-the-moment acts like The Black Keys and Big Boi.

The Chelsea has issues beyond aesthetics. It’s got no bathrooms. A raised cord cover runs across the lone pathway in; raise your hand if you didn’t stumble on it. And on Sunday, the fourth-story floor felt dangerously overloaded, rippling nauseatingly beneath the sellout crowd. Sound ranged from crisp (most of Big Boi’s vocals) to murky (some of Black Key Dan Auerbach’s vocals and guitar work), while sightlines were plentiful across the wide-open floor space.

Big Boi played it smart for the came-to-party audience, forgoing 2010 solo disc Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty almost completely for a slew of OutKast favorites: “Rosa Parks,” “So Fresh, So Clean,” “B.O.B.” and “The Way You Move.” “Ms. Jackson,” which saw the diminutive rapper joined onscreen by an (unheard) video version of André 3000, hinted at what a full-on OutKast experience could have been like in the decade or so since the pair stopped touring.

Big Boi at the Chelsea inside the Cosmopolitan

Big Boi at the Chelsea inside the Cosmopolitan

The blues-rocking Black Keys came out blazing, opening with “Thickfreakness” and “10 A.M. Automatic.” They drew their typical “I can’t believe it’s only two guys!” praise as they focused on gritty, early-career material: “The Breaks,” “Stack Shot Billy,” “Busted” and “Everywhere I Go.” Those two guys, Auerbach and hard-bashing drummer Patrick Carney, were then joined by two more, a keyboardist and a bassist, for a stretch built around newer numbers such as “Everlasting Light,” “Chop and Change” and “Tighten Up.” The results felt far less forceful. The slimmed-down version returned, producing a rousing rendition of “I Got Mine” before night’s end, but on the whole, the Keys couldn’t touch the raw energy of another bluesy duo’s last Vegas’ stopover—The White Stripes’ 2003 gig inside the iconic old Joint. Sometimes, a room can make all the difference.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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