Photo courtesy of landland.net

by Kelsey Lewczynski, Guest Writer

Gather ’round, kiddies, I’ve got a story for you.

Photo courtesy of concertposter.org
Photo courtesy of concertposter.org

Once upon a time, the Black Keys came to the Joe Louis Arena in 2012 in support of their then-new release El Camino. The Arctic Monkeys were the openers. I did not know I liked them until about two weeks after they left. Of course this hurt. This hurt a lot.

So I resolved to see both acts whenever they came back. I saw the Arctic Monkeys in 2014 (who I highly recommend seeing because, man, did that show seriously kick ass) and last Friday I saw the Black Keys and officially corrected my error.

What a great show.

The opening act was Cage the Elephant, and I only knew about two songs from them, but they put on a fine set – not too long, not too short.

Then came the Black Keys. I rushed from the bathroom just quick enough to catch the beginning of “Dead and Gone”, a song from El Camino. It was done perfectly. If you don’t already know, the Black Keys are a two-man group, so they have a very minimal show compared to other bands. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are both solid musicians, only helped by two extra musicians to add layers to the sound.

Songs like “Run Right Back” and “Bullet in the Brain” were done so well live, they were better than the album version. That’s a high compliment. And you better believe that the entire arena was singing “Lonely Boy” so loud that the audience became one. It’s a kind of energy that you rarely find outside of live music, and one of my personal favorite experiences.

The Joe isn’t my favorite venue, even if the acoustics are nice. It isn’t fun to navigate and it’s hard to have a really good seat unless you’re in GA, an area I’m only in when it’s a band I really like (Arctic Monkeys, for example) or there just aren’t any seats (St. Andrew’s). Nevertheless, I didn’t think about my seats, as admittedly nice as they were, but just the music and sparse visuals used on stage.

Note: a fond recollection I have was during the encore break when all the lights went out and the audience was roaring for more. A lot of people must have had smart phones with LED lights because there were so many on, that the arena looked like a starry night sky. The stage was actually lit to the point where if the actual lights stopped functioning, the band could get along fine.

Every song was on point, the set never dragged, there were no slow moments, the audience was into it and perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay to a show: I wanted more. By God, I wanted that night to go on a lot longer than it did.

The last concert I went to was Young the Giant at the Fillmore. Sometimes, when there is a large gap in between concerts, you forget how much you like being there. The excitement in the air, the anticipation of the main act, the becoming a fan of the opening act, the shouts during the break before the encore, the sore throat from singing along, the temporary hearing loss afterwards… makes me feel alive.

The Black Keys did a rock show right. It was loud, it was fast-paced, it was fun, it was high-energy and it was above all good. A lot of my friends go to pop shows. Not a knock on them because it takes a lot of effort to put something of that caliber together night after night, but sometimes the production values swallow up the act. With all the lights and back-up dancers and costume changes and antics, you’re kind of distracted from the music itself.

With the Black Keys, in its core, it’s just two guys playing garage rock, and having a blast while doing it. And in the end, that’s the meat and potatoes rock and roll that I’ve always liked. Thanks, Keys, it was a hell of a way to spend a Friday night. I didn’t even care that I was dead tired for SOLID the next morning.