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Black Keys went with ‘Big Wayne’ Newton at Life is Beautiful

Updated July 4, 2022 - 11:17 am

It’s a piece of Las Vegas lore, specifically Life Is Beautiful lore: The Black Keys presenting Wayne Newton at the 2019 Life is Beautiful festival. The pairing might have seemed as odd as whipped cream on pizza, but it made sense to the Black Keys’ co-founder Pat Carney.

Carney and his bandmate, Dan Auerbach, effectively game-planned Newton’s visit for a wild spin through the hit “Lonely Boy.” Credit the punctuality, or lack thereof, of another famous Wayne for inspiring this idea.

“The idea came from when we played this festival in 2008 outside Baltimore, called the Virgin Fest, and Lil Wayne was going onstage before us,” Carney said in a recent phone interview as the Black Keys open their “Dropout Boogie” tour Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden. “He showed up like an hour and a half late and (screwed up) the whole thing, and we were only allowed to play three songs.

“It kind of happens to Lil Wayne a lot, and I started paying attention to Lil Wayne’s cancellations, and he canceled like every show.”

Guided by fate, Lil Wayne was scheduled to play the 2019 Life is Beautiful’s Downtown Stage, again preceding the Black Keys. Shocker, he canceled. But the guys were ready.

“When I saw he was supposed to go on right before us again, I was like, there is no way he’s showing up,” Carney said. “How funny would it be if we can get Wayne Newton and bring him out onstage and say, ‘We couldn’t get Lil Wayne, but here’s Big Wayne (laughs). We played ‘Lonely Boy’ and it was the perfect song for him.”

As Newton said at the time, “The crowd went ape!”

“Dropout Boogie” is the Black Keys 11th studio release. Another famous Las Vegas resident is partnering with the band. Guitar legend Billy Gibbons plays on “Good Love.”

Gibbons had seen the Black Keys early in their formation, about 20 years ago at a club gig. They have been friendly and musically cohesive ever since.

“I really feel that ZZ Top, in the grand scheme of things, are like the American Rolling Stones. They are so much greater than the perception of them, they are actually an underrated band,” Carney said. “We played with Billy. a few times. Last summer, he was in (Nashville), and we just invited him over to the studio. He wanted to jam and we recorded a bunch of stuff, like 45 minutes of an improvised jam.”

“Good Love” is just a piece of that session.

“We can make a whole record with Billy in three or four days,” Carney said. “We already have a third, or half, of a record already laid out.”

The Black Keys’ have been just Carney and Auerbach, but will be a four-man unit on “Dropout Boogie.” They are inviting musicians Kenny Brown and Eric Deaton for a sampling of the 2021 album “Delta Kream.”

Carney is arriving a couple days early. “I’m trying to decide of I should play golf, or if it’s worth it,” the drummer said. “I’m not sure a lot of bands start their tours in July in Las Vegas, but we will make the most of the trip.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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