Akron's favorite sons bring aural carnage back home again
Five quick thoughts on The Black Keys' Schottenstein Center debut last Sunday night before it disappears completely into the ether:
1. The Keys' records have smoothed out a lot over the years, and their expanded lineup did a good job of making those delicate arrangements go boom on Sunday. But they were at their most humongous as a two-piece, Dan Auerbach's distortion cranked to perilously uncouth extremes. You can tell he and Patrick Carney spent years figuring out how to sound explosive. I would hate to see a Keys concert that doesn't take advantage of all those years bashing away together, so it's good to see they're still putting those old tricks to good use even as they've graduated to arenas.
2. That said, I think my favorite moments of Sunday's show were recent hits that showed off the Keys' hard-earned pop chops. There's a reason why "Brothers" and "El Camino" became the band's breakout albums; it's not like Auerbach and Carney were just the last two rockers hanging around. Where other bands of their ilk tried to make a meal of microwaved leftovers from their dads' record collections, these guys kept pushing themselves and took just enough liberties to find their way into something special. Case in point: I don't know if they'll ever write a better pop song than "Lonely Boy." From a guitarist standpoint, it's an exercise in almost childlike simplicity. Those riffs are as basic as they come; that chord progression the first one you think of upon learning your first "Smoke On the Water" power chords. But its simple like Apple products are simple, an exercise in intuitive exterior backed by cutting-edge engineering.
3. A little bummed that they didn't play any BlakRoc material, but then again I didn't write about BlakRoc either so maybe we both consider it too tangential to the canon. Or maybe it's just not economically feasible to bring up to 11 rappers on tour with you for the purpose of glorified cameos. Oh well.
4. I loved the little touches they busted out for the encore, including a giant mirror ball for "Everlasting Light" and a Vegas-style "The Black Keys" sign that descended for their closing run through "I Got Mine." I also love that these ideas weren't beaten to death; if I paid good money to have a sign like that constructed, I don't know if I would have the self-control to save it for halfway through my final song.
5. I don't know if a crowd has ever cheered that much at the mention of Akron before.