Psychedelic funk rock supergroup The Arcs played Northern Liberties’ newest venue, the Fillmore, Dec. 16. Fronted by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, the Arcs also include prolific producer Richard Swift, former touring members of the Black Keys Leon Michels and Nick Marshon, multi-instrumentalist Homer Steinweiss and the mariachi band Flor de Toloache. Touring behind their solid debut album “Yours, Dreamily,” the Arcs put on a stellar show that was well suited to the spacious venue.
The all-female mariachi band Flor de Toloache opened for the Arcs. They played various mariachi tunes and a cover of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” that delighted the crowd. Not too long after, the Arcs hit the stage to a roar of applause. Auerbach’s fame preceded him as many a fan were donning the Black Keys T-shirts. The band launched right into “Velvet Ditch,” a great track that opened with trumpets blaring before Auerbach cut in with a blues-y guitar riff that set the tone not only for the rest of the song, but for the rest of their set. Auerbach’s guitar prowess was on full display as his axe’s thick, raw sound cut through the other instruments. Auerbach is a great guitarist who doesn’t caress the notes out of his instrument so much as he wrangles it into submission. It was great to see his work up close rather than from a thousand feet away in an arena for a The Black Keys concert.
After just that one song, you could tell what a treat the Arcs’ performance was going to be. Their sound was so full and fleshed out, adding new layers to the album arrangements that turn good songs into great songs and great songs into showstoppers. Flor de Toloache supplied superb backing vocals and horn accompaniment that really took each song to a new level compared to the album version.
A grinning Auerbach addressed the packed crowd before playing “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” saying, “You’re a bunch of rowdy motherf-ckers, this one is your tempo Philly.” It’s hard to argue with the man as the song starts off with a lazy beat before Auerbach starts plucking a steady, methodical guitar line. The refrain packs a real punch with Auerbach and company belting out the lyrics over a snazzy organ line and searing guitar chords.
The Arcs steadily worked their way through “Yours, Dreamily” with a few covers sprinkled in. “My Mind” was a standout track. Auerbach, leaving guitar duties to Michels, really made the song his own on vocals and tambourine. The studio version of the song is a bit sparse but the live version truly kicked ass.
Closing with “Outta My Mind,” the lead single from “Yours, Dreamily,” the band left the stage with the crowd at peak excitement, begging the band to come out for an encore to play arguably the best track from the album, “Stay in My Corner.” Auerbach and company did not disappoint as they took the song to a whole other level before departing from the stage for good.
A good live show takes the album tracks you know and love and elevates them to a place that makes you glad you bought a ticket and made the trek out to the venue. The Arcs, with their experience and talented lineup, put on a performance that few acts can top in terms of polish and stage presence. It was a joy to see them up on stage and hopefully they will make their way through Philly again somewhere down the line.