Live Concert Review – The Black Keys – Arctic Monkeys – Cleveland, OH – March 20, 2012 – Quicken Loans Arena
Cleveland, OH – Ten years to the day of the first show Akron natives the Black Keys played in Cleveland, OH at the tiny Beachland Tavern (one of Cleveland’s greatest gems), the duo has come full circle in their career. From that first show in front of a half-empty tavern and earning a reported $20, to headlining their first ever arena tour, the little duo that could made their way from humble bars in Akron and Cleveland to main stages at festivals such as Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, and now, playing to packed arenas across the country.
On the heels of their latest, and arguably catchiest album, ‘El Camino,’ Dan Auerbach (guitar and lead vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) hit the road to prove to the masses that they do, in fact, belong among the biggest names in rock.
Kicking off an hour and a half set of the best bluesy-garage-rock you’ll hear out of the Midwest, the former landscapers from Akron got the show off to bluesy start with “Howlin’ For You,” off of 2010’s Grammy winning album, ‘Brothers.’ Though disappointing some long-time fans by adding a bass player and keyboardist to the touring lineup, the extra musicians only helped translate the sound that producer Danger Mouse added to ‘Brothers’ and ‘El Camino’ to the band’s live show. The duo did strip down during a mid-set span that left just the original two-man lineup on stage to play some tunes for the old school fans including “Thickfreakness” from their sophomore album of the same name, released back in 2003.
Cleveland was the closest the boys came to their Akron home, so naturally, Dan and Patrick brought even more energy than normal, which is no easy task for the always-intense Black Keys.
The opportunity to play in front of family, friends, and the owners of the venue that first let you on a stage will do that to just about anyone. A relatively bare bones setup for an arena tour, some extra lights, some visuals of random cars and vans, Midwesterners splashed behind the band on stage, but never did one get the feeling that they didn’t belong in a venue of this size. It felt like that show they played in 2002 at the Beachland, or maybe even one of the gigs from the now-closed Lime Spider in Akron. It’s just the way these two guys rock out, it’s intimate to them, and it makes it intimate to the fans, no matter how far one’s seat is from the stage.
Ripping through a set of mostly newer tunes like “Next Girl” off of ‘Brothers’ and the rocking “Gold On The Ceiling” from ‘El Camino,‘ they splashed in some oldies as they took a stroll down memory lane, this being their 10th Anniversary show (whether that was planned or not was not made known, but it was welcomed regardless). “I’ll Be Your Man,” and “Thickfreakness” were clearly highlights and made the somewhat steep ticket price worth it for the long time fans to see their heroes on the big stage.
Sporting the very same shirt he wore at their first show (a “Beat Green” t-shirt, referring to his high school’s rival school) Dan shared some playful banter with the crowd, but ever the soft spoken and quiet one, it wasn’t much more than some “thank yous” and a mention to that first gig some 10 years ago. “Tighten Up,” arguably the catchiest and most popular Keys jam from ‘Brothers‘ and the latest single, “Lonely Boy” ended the first raucous set as they band left the stage for a short breather.
A short break led to a short but lively three song encore including a disco ball and all kinds of fun lights flying around the arena. “Everlasting Light” showed off Dan’s vocal capabilities, hitting a falsetto that one wouldn’t expect, and a raucous “I Got Mine” left the crowd wanting more as the duo took a bow headed off the stage, clearly replacing Cleveland’s former “King” in what used to be his castle.
Perhaps one of the world’s biggest buzz bands of the buzz band era, Arctic Monkeys opened Tuesday’s show. It was the first time the Monkey’s have visited Cleveland since they first burst onto the music scene some six years ago. Running through an hour long set of hits like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and songs off their latest release, ‘Suck It And See,’ the Sheffield, England band won over some new fans and warmed the crowd up nicely for the evening’s showcase.