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For a "Brand New" Concert Experience: "Alicia Keys at the Barclays Center"

As I’ve mentioned before (, my first concert of the year was one I had been waiting for. It was going to fulfill my need to see one of the best entertainers on the planet and also a personal need to hear the music that is so important in my life. (
Another exciting aspect was that I was going to finally go to the brand new Barclays Center.

This arena has been all the hype since it opened in October 2012. The very first show was Barbra Streisand’s “Back to Brooklyn” tour. People came from all over the country to see her first show in many years and the new arena was waiting with open arms.
Since then, anyone I knew that has gone to a show there has bragged about how clean it was, how accessible everything is, how many amazing places there are to eat, how this was the best thing that happened to Brooklyn since……………..well since Barbra Streisand was born there I guess.

In New York City whenever there is a huge star coming to perform there is really only one place to go to see them: Madison Square Garden. Now I hate to be that jaded cranky old person ragging on a good time at only age thirty-one but what a crappy, sticky, poorly organized place that is! I do not particularly care for going there. But what choice do I have? Whenever someone I really want to see is coming to town, I suck it up, buy the poor man’s seat way up top, enjoy the concert, and then complain the entire two hours I am terrified walking down the stairs of an escalators that were turned off for our “safety”.  After about ten years of it you get used it to. But allegedly once you know better you do better. Or so I am told.

Another annoying aspect of Madison Square Garden is that I do not live in Manhattan and when shows end at midnight there are limited means of transportation to my home in Brooklyn. Even if there was it is a commute of at least an hour and lets be serious I am out on a weeknight and I am counting the seconds of sleep I am losing, despite the great time I had (and of course will only remember when I am rested and retelling the story).

But here is where the Barclays Center becomes crucial. They have an ingenious system where separate, WORKING; escalators (when entering and exiting) bring you right to your floor. There is no more taking twenty-five to get to the top. This cuts down on the traffic, bathroom lines, and even concession stands. Everyone has the same thing on each floor so there is a fully functioning process here. After hearing that I now only had to ride one train for twenty minutes to get home, these were the next big exciting parts to look forward to. You know, after hearing Alicia Keys.

What’s that saying about when you ASS U ME something? Yep story of my life sometimes. Maybe God just wants me to have a tale to tell. In any event this is what happened.

My friends and I arrived at the Barclays Center about an hour too early. Since we had all heard (none of us had been there prior to this day) about the good eats and several bars we figured we would eat and drink first not to have to hold anything during the show. That’s not how it works. The show was starting at 8, so we were let in about 7:30ish. By then it was a long line behind us, we arrived about 6pm. As we walked in and around we purchased our souvenirs and then decided to make our way up to our level to get our stuff. I couldn’t wait to get to take “our” escalator. Well they were ALL “broken”. Personally I think they were turned off. Not one was on in the entire place. Nor did they come on at any point that night. Not even when we left.

We had seats very high up because they were so expensive, and we knew we would be higher up but I didn’t know we would be forced to climb so many stairs. I lost count at how many we would have had to climb and it was so hot I had no choice but to wait for the elevator which took forever. Also that didn’t eliminate the stairs. There were still many dizzying flights to get to our seats. Praise Jesus there was a bar to lean on in front of us or we all would have fell down three flights spilling our waters with no tops on because apparently that is a security threat, unlike the thousands of people getting wasted that are there climbing endless steps.

After that hurdle my friends and I began to discuss the other issues. When we went to get food just before sitting down, there were other problems than the missing water caps. Apparently you cannot get mayonnaise at the Barclays Center. It’s too rich for their blood. One of my friends actually made that comment all through the night (she knows who she is) so much so that at the moment she is blocking me from remembering what we were complaining about. I just know that there wasn’t such a great selection, it was expensive, and we were expecting something different. That may have been half the problem.

The next issue was one I knew about but didn’t really have. I knew that the seats there didn’t have cup holders for the drinks in the traditional arm rest location. Rather they are on the floor between the seats so you need to pay close attention when you get up or when someone walks by, especially since there are no caps. Ok I know the no caps are my no mayo issue. I know many locations don’t allow caps and for the record it bothers me at each place. I am an equal, no discrimination, complainer.

We were on the end, which helped us, but every time someone came in the same screams and series of “Oh My Gods” were chanted. I became so good at calming down the people who had seats worse than ours. Actually I became generous and held food for the women next to us until they were seated. There is no other way for you to function.

Finally the show started. That thirty minutes before hand was drama heavy. Miguel opened for Alicia Keys. I really haven’t heard any of his songs besides “Adorn”. Sadly, this experience did not change that. I feel sorry for opening acts. I don’t know if it’s the equipment they have to use or what but this was the worst one have seen and not in terms of talent. It was so incredibly loud to the point where it was painful. The sound was not clear but scratchy. “Adorn” came on and I still could barely make it out. He seemed very energetic and I am sure in a better setting would be great to see. I saw him on the Grammy’s and I didn’t want to kill myself so that’s something. Once he was off the stage I was relieved but nervous it would be like this the whole night.

Luckily within minutes the entire atmosphere changed. It was like someone plugged a battery into the place. Alicia Keys came out strong and her fans even stronger. Everyone was on their feet singing and dancing and it was about fifteen minutes before she slowed down to a mellow beat.  And just like that you are hooked. I was instantly addicted to the music and internally nodding along to myself thinking I knew this would be the show to see. Every single time I see her it’s like the first time. It gets better and better. I had no idea just how much.

Alicia Keys’ new album “Girl on Fire” is my favorite by far. I have all of her previous work and listen to that on a regular basis but there is something about this new one. I listen over and over again, I am singing, and dancing along without even being aware of it. I cannot seem to get sick of it. Actually quite the opposite is happening. I find myself needing it on when I am writing. It has something to do with the beats and the lyrics. It is soothing and fun at the same time. It is empowering and gives me energy at just the right moment. I love the order and I don’t know if I have one song I listen to more than any other. But I guess if I had a gun to my head I would say that I couldn’t live without listening to “Brand New Me”, “New Day”, “Girl on Fire”, “Tears Always Win”, “Not Even the King”, “That’s When I Knew”, “Limitedless” everyday. See not too many. There is like two or three other songs I don’t have listen to everyday, maybe just every other day.

From one song to the next the transition is seamless. Alicia is on one piano, and then another disappears, and reappears. Half of her show is part of a magical act. What I find interesting is that she is never out of breath. I am and I am sitting down trying to concentrate on singing, taking pictures, and not falling to my death. She was in such a cute outfit, more revealing than she has been with her new short hairdo. She seemed so at easy and like she was having the most fun. One of my favorite parts was leading up to her singing “Limitedless” which is a reggae song, she started off by singing samples of other songs in that genre I hadn’t heard for many years, dare I say at my sweet sixteen. I was having a blast.

But what took the cake was when she decides to start singing a Mary J. Blige song. This struck me as odd because I have never ever heard Alicia Keys sing a song that wasn’t written by her. After like two seconds when I was half turning to my friend to question this decision, out of nowhere she breaks into “All I Need” and out comes Mary’s partner in that song, the one and only METHOD MAN! I nearly died. So did the crowd. When I think about it I can still feel the energy in the room. It happened so fast and then it was over and he was gone. I wish I had it on video. It was such a high point in the evening. I am proud to say I still have mad rapping skills.

After about two hours of singing, Alicia Keys came back out for two encores. My favorite is “No One”. This time she had everyone’s phone on and waving the light around. It made me weepy. That song is played such an integral part of my life and holds a spot in my heart forever. Hearing in it the dark, watching all the lights moving around was just beautiful. It was so memorable.

Once she was done she went backstage for her only costume change of the evening, donning a gown for her version of “Empire State of Mind”. At the show I saw last time this song had just come out and so did Jay-Z when it started. This time Jay was on screen singing in the video but nonetheless there in spirit.

I love that she ends a show in New York City with this song. It makes you proud and want to sing even harder. That our city produces such talent like Alicia is what our concrete jungle is all about.

Before you even think to ask, yes I am listening to her right now.

That girl really is on fire.  I am just happy to be a brand new me.

For Alicia Keys and Her Music:

For the Barclays Center:


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