The Black Keys deliver a knockout show

Here at ACL we’re always pleased to see our alumni come back bigger and better than before, and that is certainly the case with the Black Keys, who returned to our stage for a knockout show. Since the Akron duo’s last visit in 2010, they’ve added a staggering number of radio hits, Grammy awards and arena tours to its arsenal.  Thus energized, the band delivered a charged performance that we also streamed live around the world.

Augmented by keyboardist John Clement Wood and bassist Richard Swift (last seen on our stage playing keyboards for the Shins), the powerhouse pair of guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney launched into “Next Girl” with a squeal of feedback. The riffy rocker set the tone for the rest of the evening, as the band rarely let up. From the ripping “Strange Times” and the rumbling “She’s Long Gone” to the countrified “Gotta Get Away” and the stomping “Gold On the Ceiling,” the Keys kept the hooks flowing and the energy level burning. The band dipped into its first album for the rawboned “Leavin’ Trunk” and covered Scottish pop pioneer Edwin Collins’ hit “A Girl Like You.” The bluesy ballad “Too Afraid to Love You” provided slight respite, but it was just the pause to refresh. Soulful riffs and memorable rockers ruled, especially when the band essayed its patented blues/glam hybrids a la the devilishly catchy “Money Maker” and the smash hit “Lonely Boy,” which had the crowd dancing in the aisles.

Declining to leave the stage, the Keys went straight into the encore with a pair of psychedelic soul tunes from its latest LP Turn Blue. “Weight of Love” boasted a dreamy feel reminiscent of Pink Floyd, while “Turn Blue” itself could easily have fit onto a Philly soul comp. But the band really brought the house down with its final number. Auerbach provided an extended resonator guitar intro to “LIttle Black Submarines” before launching into the first verse, on which the audience joined him. Once the tune kicked into its electric half the place exploded, providing a perfect, powerful end.

The Black Keys have become rock stars the old-fashioned way: by earning it show by show. We can’t wait for you to see this one when it airs early next year as part of our milestone 40th season. Stay tuned.