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Concert Reviews:
Black Keys returns rejuvenated at Little Caesars Arena
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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DETROIT -- Time off can result in rest -- or rust.



But the Black Keys' recent hiatus has clearly invigorated the Akron-formed, no Nashville-based duo, as evidenced by this year's new album, "Let's Rock," and especially its cracking concert Saturday night, Oct. 5, at Little Caesars Arena.



Being off the road for the past four years also gave singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney a chance to come up with a new way to present the Black Keys on stage. For this trek the pair has added three additional musicians, including two guitarists, to the lineup, adding sonic depth and allowing the band to recreate many, if not all, of the parts Auerbach layers onto the studio recordings. They keyboards that are part of some songs may have been absent, but Auerbach, "Delicate" Steve Marion and Andy Gabbard more than compensated with nuance, texture and the sheer power of the three-pronged attack.



At its heart, Saturday's 90-minute show was nothing less than an old school rock exposition. There were contemporary touches, of course, in the state-of-art lighting and a massive, circular video screen that displayed an array of live footage and arty images throughout the 21 songs. But unlike, say, the Chainsmokers' performance two nights before, where the songs supported opulent visuals, the Black Keys' concert was all about five guys tearing through the material -- even when the night's sole gimmick, a tall recreation of the electric chair from "Let's Rock's" cover, was unveiled for encore renditions of the album's "Lo/Hi" and "Go."



The group started out full-stop on Saturday, opening with "I Got Mine" before rocking into the new "Eagle Birds." The quintet played with tight, Spartan efficiency, with Auerbach delivering one highlight solo after another -- always tasteful, without indulgence, and stretching out in particular in a long instrumental section at the end of "Walk Around the Water." "Little Black Submarines" was also given a majestic arrangement, starting with Auerbach alone on guitar, the rest of the band gradually coming in before it exploded into a rich rock opus.



The set list was impressive for its well thought-out groupings as well. The Black Key's paired breakthrough singles such as "Gold on the Ceiling" and "Fever" at one point, then a few songs later offered back-to-back "basement" rockers, as Auerbach called the retro vibey "10 A.M. Automatic" and "Your Touch." Blues was, of course, at the core of most of the songs played on Saturday, but with touches of psychedelia ("Everlasting Light," "Thickfreakness") and stomping, anthemic rock. Auerbach and Gabbard (whose brother Zach played bass) whistled the crowd through a singalong version of "Tighten Up," while "Ten Cent Pistol" was a slinky gem and "Lonely Boy" brought the main set to a go-go dancing close.



"We'll see you next time," Auerbach declared as the Black Keys left the stage for the first time Saturday. The group was back for the encores a few minutes later, of course, but here's hoping the next time he was talking about won't take quite as long to arrive.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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