Concert review: Kings of Leon with The Black Keys and The Whigs at 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre in Tampa (with photos and setlists)

Share on Nextdoor

Our group was all regretful there were no video closeups, meaning we could really only listen to the performance and watch tiny specks of musicians onstage (Auerbach's energetic leg kicks were especially amusing at miniature scale). Fortunately, even with the muffled sound quality at Ask Gary, nothing could hold back the perfection of Auerbach's vocals.

There's something just a little strange about a garage band playing a stadium, and Keys are still best suited to smaller venues, where their technical skill and bluesy soul can be best appreciated. Perhaps this is one reason why Kings of Leon have changed their sound so much from their early releases; with headlining tours of arena-sized venues come snooty security escorts in black Land Rovers, throngs of screaming fans and encores filled with enough pyrotechnics to blow the eyebrows off the front row. Tonight, I would have given anything to see The Black Keys rock the hell out of Jannus or Crowbar.

Whatever one may think about the "new and improved" Kings of Leon, they played the amphitheater as though they've been headlining huge venues for years. The rough edges of their early grungy Southern garage rock have been completely smoothed over, replaced with slick radio hits and mainstage swagger.

[image-1]But the Followills are damn good at what they do. These four Tennessee musicians have embraced some ambitious elements of mainstream rock and it suits them well. Their 2008 album, Only by the Night, is  made for rocking arenas with radio hits like "Sex On Fire" and "Use Somebody," which I've felt from the very first listen seemed made specifically to get people out of their seats and singing along. "Sex On Fire" in particular has reached levels of recognition that, in a live setting, drown out Caleb's distinctive voice with that of the roaring crowd. [Caleb pictured left.]

Their stage is unusually tasteful for a show of this magnitude; well-composed black-and-white live shots (complete with requisite close-ups of attractive Followills to induce shrieks of joy from the ladies), subtle amber lights glowing like candles, and even the flame-filled finale were all less ostentatious than I expected.

The Kings played several songs off their upcoming album, Come Around Sundown, providing my first listen to the new material. It's sure to win over more fans, fill more stadiums, and sell gazillion copies ... but it just doesn't sound like the same band I first came to love. I can't help but wish Sundown had more of the roughness of their early releases, but at least the band seems to recognize that many of their nostalgic early fans don't quite appreciate their new direction, and included a good amount of older material in this evening's set.

We're all sure to be seeing even more of the Kings of Leon as their popularity continues to grow, and I'm not disappointed by that in the least. If all mainstream rockers could be as talented as the Kings of Leon, this reviewer might even start listening to the radio again.


I'll Be Your Man

Strange Times

Everlasting Light

Next Girl

Chop and Change

Howlin' For You

Tighten Up

She's Long Gone

Ten Cent Pistol

Your Touch

I Got Mine



Molly's Chambers

My Party






Four Kicks

The Bucket



Sex On Fire

On Call

Back Down South


Knocked Up


Use Somebody

Black Thumbnail

More photos by Tracy:

The Whigs


The Black Keys


Kings of Leon


I don't often attend stadium shows and will freely admit I've been especially critical of the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre: the name is an embarrassment, the weather nearly always proves to be too wet (the recent Jonas Brothers show was canceled due to flooding), and good god … the price of tickets is truly offensive. After Saturday's show, I can add to my complaints a pitch black packed sardine-tin of a tunnel to the ladies' room, and ushers whose answer to "Where is my seat?" was "Just sit anywhere and we'll figure it out later." [All photos by Tracy May.]

However, I was also reminded of the joys of attending a large show. The excitement of meeting a large group of friends before the concert and the way the voices and cheers of a crowd echo and add another element to the music is something only a larger show can offer. Even the weather on this particular evening was perfectly cooperative, with a mild breeze and cotton-candy colored sunset providing an ideal setting for the evening's entertainment from three solid bands.

Delayed by tailgating and chatting, I arrived for the last few songs of The Whigs' set. The Athens, Ga. rockers [pictured above] filled the stadium with their voices and proved to be an ideal selection as an opening band, their roots very much in the same musical vein as both Kings of Leon and The Black Keys.

When the The Black Keys last stopped in our area, they played a sold-out date at House of Blues in Orlando. Since that show, they've released the critically acclaimed Brothers and have been getting much mainstream recognition. This has put the Keys into an unusual predicament: they're a popular enough band to sell out smaller venues, yet not quite big enough to fill large ones on their own. (But apparently, neither are the Kings of Leon judging by the hundreds of empty seats surrounding us.)

The Black Keys blasted onstage with two older songs, "I'll be Your Man" (the theme from the HBO series Hung), and "Strange Times," drummer Patrick Carney to the left of the minimalist setup and guitarist Dan Auerbach [pictured] to the right. They've successfully built their sound around the simplicity of two musicians, Carney filling the arena with a raw pounding rhythm, while Auerbach's luscious voice rose above his soulful riffs and clouds of feedback. For the new material off Brothers, the Keys invited a keyboardist and bassist to flesh out their performance even more, adding additional layers of depth to the surprisingly lush sound the pair creates all on their own.

Scroll to read more Music News articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.