Black Keys concert review – Cleveland, OH – Quicken Loans Arena – 09.06.14
Last night (Saturday, 09.06.14) marked the return of a hometown hero to Cleveland, OH’s Quicken Loans Arena. The pride and joy of North East Ohio (specifically, Akron) was welcomed home to a standing ovation from a packed house. LeBron James? Nope. The Black Keys!
One doesn’t have to be a senior citizen to remember the Black Keys humble beginnings at the Lime Spider in Akron. It wasn’t long ago that the duo, comprised of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were performing yard work for group homes operated by a local mental health agency. In the not-too-distant past, the Black Keys were just two college dropouts jamming in a basement with aspirations of making it big. And boy, did they make it big!
Fans filing into The Q ranged from those who watched Dan and Patrick cut their teeth at small clubs to those who hopped on the bandwagon when they heard breakout album ‘Brothers’ (2010) or their 4x Grammy winning record ‘El Camino’ (2011), and new fans who were introduced to the band by their single “Fever” from their 2014 release, ‘Turn Blue.’
The room went black and the hypnotizing album cover of ‘Turn Blue’ was projected onto screens. Fans went crazy as Auerbach and Carney took the stage, joined by two additional touring musicians. Heavy drum kicks and upbeat bass line kicked of set opener “Dead and Gone,” alerting fans that it was time to buckle up for the wild ride they were about to embark on.
The Black Keys’ tight sound is jaw-dropping. If it had not been for the Auerbach’s numerous guitar solos (truly showcasing how much he has developed as a musician), one might have thought this was an album listening party and not a live show. The duo kept the crowd excited throughout the night by playing some of their classic tunes, including “Tighten Up” and “Howlin’ For You,” which showcased the edgier rock and roll sound that band experimented with that features much heavier bass lines and layered guitar tracks. “Gold on the Ceiling” and, of course, the song that arguably launched the duo into the spotlight, “Lonley Boy,” were both crowd favorites.
While the tour was in support of ‘Turn Blue,’ only four songs of the twenty two performed were from the new album. Overall, the album overall has a very relaxed and mellow vibe. but one would never know it from the sampling of tunes the band played last night. Numbers included the title-track (which highlighted Auerbach’s astonishingly wide vocal range), “It’s Up to You Now,” “Gotta Get Away,” and lead single “Fever.”
Black Keys – “I Got Mine” – Cleveland, OH – 09.06.14 (Video courtesy of YouTube user Stefan Bock.
The Black Keys did not make the show about flashy visual effects or long motivational speeches about how much they had to overcome to get to where they are today. The show was all about the music. As far as gratifying speeches, the guys didn’t need to in a hometown show. “We’d like to thank LeBron James for letting us use his house tonight,” Auerbach said with a laugh. It was enough to show that he and Patrick were both grateful to be playing in a near sold-out arena.
A pleasant surprise on the night was hearing “Leavin’ Trunk,” a tune the band had not performed prior to this tour since they recorded and released it as a limited edition vinyl single in 2002. Otherwise, the set was one that highlighted many different sounds that the band has worked on over the years; featuring a good balance of old and new.
Though many fans were disappointed that the set clocked in at a smidge over 1.5 hours (desperately wanting more), the duo could not have ended the night in a more ideal way. The two touring musicians exited the stage, leaving just Dan and Patrick under some spotlights to close the show with “I Got Mine” from their 2008 album ‘Attack and Release.’ Seeing just the duo alone on stage in a packed arena in their hometown truly captured the essence of how far the boys have come.
Cage the Elephant opened the show with a high energy, garage-band sounding set that really got the crowd excited. Lead singer Matt Shultz danced, ran and jumped around the stage all night, leaving him sweaty, shirtless and out of breath by the end of the night. Though entertaining to watch, it did make his singing quite hard to understand at times, but like Auerbach, his vocals translate well from the album to a live setting. The band opened the night with “Spiderhead” off their most recent album ‘Melophobia’ (2013.) After just one song, fans were on their feet, jumping and clapping along. Despite the intensity of their set, band did manage to squeeze one mellow song into their set titled “Cigarette Daydreams.” The clear fan favorite of the night was “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” from the band’s self-titled album released in 2008. Though the crazy dancing and stage diving were fun and thrilling to watch, they didn’t deter fans from recognizing the true talent of the band.