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Concert Reviews:
Bob Seger cover highligts Black Keys' Detroit show

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, September 13, 2014

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DETROIT -- "Detroit. There's something about this city, huh?" the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach told the crowd at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night, Sept. 12.

Lots of bands say things like that when they play in town -- opening act Cage The Elephant frontman Matt Schultz offered his praise practically between ever song of his group's set. But Auerbach and Patrick Carney, who formed the Black Keys 13 years ago in Akron, showed they meant it with one simple gesture.

Rolling into the third song of the encore, Auerbach introduced "a song we've never played before...This is a Detroit song" and whipped into a tight and accurate version of Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." Fortified by John Clement Wood's organ and Richard Swift's bass, it elevated an already consistently exciting show to a whole other level.

The best thing is the Keys didn't HAVE to invoke a home town classic to make the night work. The group's 22-song, hour-and-45-minute concert was a winner from the second the quartet hit the stage with the bouncy garage soul of "Dead and Gone" from "El Camino," the Grammy Award-winning 2011 album that surprisingly dominated the night even though the group is out supporting its chart-topping successor, "Turn Blue." But there wasn't a losing moment on the set list, and the Keys had the healthy thought not sold-out crowd engaged with everything from gritty album tracks such as "Next Girl," slinky blues like "Too Afraid to Live" and a barrage of big hits that included "Gold on the Ceiling," "Gotta Get Away," "Tighten Up" and "Lonely Boy."

Playing on a Spartan, straightforward stage and in front of a strikingly back-lit wall of floor lights and video panels, the Keys proved they'd grown into a potent arena act, displaying an easy confidence as it moved subtly between its particular blend of rock, blues and R&B. The versions of the "Turn Blue" tracks -- the psychedelic "Fever," the Rolling Stones-like "Gotta Get Away" and the vibey title track -- sounded stronger and more dynamic live than on the album, while an encore rendition of "Little Black Submarines" offered an epic transition between its acoustic to electric sections. And anybody really wanted to understand the breadth that the Black Keys explore had to look no further than the early show juxtaposition of "Nova Baby" and the group's cover of the blues standard "Leavin' Trunk" -- the former danceable New Wave rock, the latter hard-hitting, big-beat blues.

The night finished with the Keys trimmed back to the duo of Auerbach and Carney as they pounded through "I Got Mine." Much may have changed for the two since 2001, but on Friday they showed that they've used it mostly for the better.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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