Performing to a packed arena of nearly 10,000 people, The Black Keys took stage at the Wells Fargo Center Sept. 20 following a high-energy opener from Cage the Elephant. I was lucky enough to stand front and center as both bands delivered some savory rock ’n’ roll. While I expected them to pull off impressive sets (both being seasoned bands with a good amount of credibility for their live performances), I did not expect the genuine enjoyment with which the bands played through each and every song.
Lead singer of Cage the Elephant, Matt Shultz, made it evident he was out to please the crowd the moment he stepped on stage, pointing out that their lead guitarist, Nick Bockrath, was from this fine city. The crowd instantly perked up and the lead singer’s attempt to get comfortable set the tone well for the rest of the set. Picking both from their new album “Melophobia,” and their earlier radio hits such as “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Shake Me Down,” Shultz powered through the set, keeping a strong vocal presence whilst dancing around the stage like a madman (in an inspiring way).
Shultz took the time in between songs to thank the audience and encourage them to party and have an “experience” with him. By the time he took his shirt off and took a couple of confident stage dives into the crowd, you could really tell that the audience was digging his stage antics. Even I was jamming out by the end of it, although I mostly came to see The Black Keys.
I was primed and ready by the time The Black Keys took the stage, opening their set with “Dead and Gone” from the highly-acclaimed previous album “El Camino.” That was the beauty of this show — you could tell they had picked songs that they really wanted to play, not just all of the songs from the new album that the fans didn’t know as well yet. Many critics of the new album praised the band’s move towards a more bluesy feel, and you could pick up on their new refined style considering the remainder of the set was extra groovy.
What I liked the most was how the original duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were set up at the front of the stage with the other members placed considerably behind. They really had the entire arena of people feeling like they were sitting in a garage a few feet away from the two as they rocked out.
Special highlights of the show include the entire crowd singing along to “Howlin’ for You” in chorus, and a brilliant cover of Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You,” which they played. To top it all off, they finished a three-song encore with a stunning rendition of “Little Black Submarines” (we all knew it was coming and were still just as pumped for it), leaving me feeling more satisfied than the time I had just enough milk left for a bowl of Cocoa Puffs last weekend.