If the Black Keys want to play their hometown in 2009, they may have to wait for the new Rubber Bowl to be finished to fit all their area fans into one place.
The West Akron duo is riding a wave of critical acclaim and their best record sales on the strength of their fifth album Attack and Release, produced by hot knob twiddler and Gnarls Barkley member Danger Mouse.
The band entered the stately, acoustically refined and designed stage of University of Akron's E.J. Thomas to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd. Playing in front of giant inflatable tire touting Akron and "Heavy Sole" the Firestone grads proceeded to give the age varied crowd, the fuzzed up blues-flavored rock they desired with Girl is On My Mind followed by the stomping riffage of thickfreakness, playing in front of their giant inflatable tire touting "Heavy Sole."
"It's nice to be home," Auerbach told the crowd.
The Keys subscribe to the ethos that recordings and live shows are separate listening experiences. Thus songs such as the taut Set You Free and the bouncy blues of Busted are stretched out and broken down with Carney who has come a long way as a drummer adding subtle and occasionally funky variants on his usually thunderous lockstep grooves only to rebuild to crowd pleasing crescendos.
Likewise Auerbach whose onstage moves have always resembled a drunken whirling dervish seems to be embracing his inner guitar hero, dramatically stomping his many fuzz pedals, playing screaming lead and slide lines and literally beating power chords from his Rickenbacker. But Auerbach did slow down long enough to apply his world weary vocals to a soulful version of Captain Beefheart's R&B ballad I'm Glad.
As for the new songs, Attack and Release is the band's most varied and layered collection of songs, but in concert with only Carney and Auerbach those tunes are stripped to their bare essentials.
Carney shifted the groove of the uptempo single Strange Times and I Got Mine featured an extended freakout solo from Auerbach who has added a bit of flash to his traditionally chord-heavy and fingerpicked playing.
The Royal Bangs a quintet from Knoxville, TN opened the show with a kinetic set of bouncy songs from their debut album We Breed Champions released on Carney's Audio Eagle label and some new material. The band's catchy and tunes such as New Scissors and Cat Swallow others which use intricate guitar harmonies, the occasional synthesizers and multiple time signatures as a bed for singer Ryan Schaefer's aching vocals. The band did a suitable job of warming up the crowd but the effect of their high energy set was dampened by a bass heavy mix that didn't do Schaefer any favors.
Fans will have one more chance this year to see The Black Keys perform when they open for their musical heroes and fellow Akronites Devo at a Summit County Democratic Party benefit concert at the Civic Theatre on Friday.
Girl Is on My Mind
Set You Free
Same Old Thing
10 A.M. Automatic
Stack Shot Billy
Everywhere I Go
Have Love Will Travel
I Got Mine
Till I Get My Way