West Akron blues-rock duo The Black Keys are riding the wave of glowing press, sold out shows that has followed the release of their fifth album Attack & Release which debuted at number 14 on the Billboard charts. Befitting the band's rising profile, online portal Myspace.com enlisted them to perform as part of their series of ``secret showsÂ´Â´ (myspace.com/secretshows) Wednesday night the Beachland Ballroom.
As secret's go, it wasn't very well kept as many fans were turned away at the door but with less then 200 people gathered in the cozy tavern of the Beachland where the band played it's first ever show in a decade ago. The older and wiser duo performed a high energy and loose hour plus set that featured about half of the new album along side a healthy heaping of fan favorites from their growing back catalog.
Attack & Release recorded with hip producer Danger Mouse and it is the band's most elaborately arranged and recorded album begging the question of how some of the tunes would translate to the onstage two-man setup. The question was answered immediately with the set opening Â§li Same Old Thing Â§lf which on record sounds a bit flat due in part to some mechanized percussion. But live, drummer Patrick Carney pushed the groove giving it the blues rock swing the it lacked in the studio. Several other new tunes also faired well in their stripped down versions such as the single Strange Times Â§lf and Oceans & Streams.
Just as with many band's who make their name on the road, The Black Keys often embellish their older, familiar tunes for the stage, inserting dramatic breakdowns and drops in dynamics only to build to incendiary climaxes in all the right places.
Guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach sporting long hair and a full beard that made him look like TV's Grizzly Adam's guitar slinging son hopped, swooned and swayed to the music coming out of his fingers and throat though he flubbed a few notes, seemed more comfortable with displaying his lead guitar skills. On a re-arranged Â§li Stackshot Billy Â§lf Auerbach unleashed a searing fuzzed out solo and the band followed it with a version of Â§li Busted Â§lf that felt like a sonic gutpunch.
The only surprise of the set was a faithful cover of Captain Beefheart's old R&B ballad I'm Glad which featured a soulful vocal from Auerbach (The band recorded the song a few days ago and have posted it on their myspace page).
The duo is unlikely to play in Northeast Ohio again until the fall. So for local fans, the ``special secret showÂ´Â´ may not have been much of a secret but both myspace and the Black Keys delivered on the ``special.Â´Â´