Sure, it was an arena show, complete with smoke, flashing lights and a screen projecting live footage. But there were no pyrotechnics, lasers or artists suspended above the crowd.
Rather, when The Black Keys played to a packed Tacoma Dome Saturday night, it was the sheer musical prowess of the duo — guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney — that made for an exciting concert.
Despite this being the second-to-last stop on the Ohio-born blues rock band’s “Let’s Rock” tour in support of its ninth studio album, Auerbach and Carney, along with their touring members, were full of energy during their two-hour show.
After an opening set from Issaquah-formed band Modest Mouse, the Black Keys opened with the guitar-driven “I Got Mine” from its 2008 album “Attack and Release.”
Behind the band was a tall sheet on which live close-ups of the band and other images were projected. However, it wasn’t long before the sheet dropped to reveal a screen framed by a circular border with an electric bolt on each side, likely a nod to the electric chair on the album cover. (The album name and cover image were reportedly inspired by Tennessee’s first electric-chair execution in 11 years; the last words of the convicted murderer who was executed apparently were “Let’s Rock,” according to Rolling Stone.)
The concert, though, was not a grim affair.
“You guys help us out with this one if you can,” Auerbach said right before the danceable “Gold on the Ceiling” from 2011’s “El Camino” started.
The band opted to have cameras on stage very close, allowing the audience to get a close-up view of the band doing its thing.
The Grammy-winning “Tighten Up” was adored by the crowd, but hands-down the most beautiful audience moment was during the somber “Little Black Submarines.” Just when it seemed Auerbach couldn’t bring out yet another guitar (he used several), he strummed an acoustic as the audience sang along and the sound echoed through the phone light-illuminated dome.
That somber moment didn’t last long though, when the rock equivalent of the beat drop in an electronic dance tune occurred and Auerbach switched back to an electric for the loud second half of the song.
While there were pauses between songs that felt a beat too long, they seemed necessary as Auerbach and the touring members changed instruments. The audience cheered as they waited for the next song, and quickly learned each time that the wait was worth it.
After “Lonely Boy,” another favorite from 2011’s “El Camino,” the show was seemingly over as Auerbach and Carney threw their picks and drumsticks into the crowd before exiting the stage.
The crowd cheered for an encore, stomped their feet and illuminated their phone flashlights once again, in hopes of an encore.
Suddenly, an electrifying sound played as strobe lights flashed and a black and white image of electric bolts played on the screen. The band was back and this time, there was a new addition to the stage: a giant, inflatable electric chair, much like the one on the cover of “Let’s Rock.” The chair accompanied the band for “Lo/Hi” and “Go,” two singles from the album, before being taken offstage for the band’s last songs.
The Black Keys were able to provide the best of both worlds for fans of intimate club shows and lovers of arena tours alike. While the production was fairly simple, the show was still exciting and entertaining, thanks to the musical mastery of Auerbach and Carney.