The Black Keys hypnotize fans with Turn Blue Tour

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Guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach impresses fans with intricate lyrics. Photo by Maddy Kennedy/ madeline.kennedy@mu.edu.

Guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach impresses fans with intricate lyrics. Photo by Maddy Kennedy/ madeline.kennedy@mu.edu.

The Black Keys passionately provided the perfect balance between rock, rhythm and jazzy blues Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in one of the first shows of their Turn Blue Tour.

The show opened with a manic, energetic performance from opening band, Cage the Elephant. As the band took to the stage, the audience got settled in while rocking out to favorites like “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” and “Take It Or Leave It.” A brilliant light show, with blue and violet floodlights adding an icy effect, accompanied Cage the Elephant lead singer Matt Schultz’s bleach-white pants and crazy dancing. The combination left a lasting, uplifting impression on fans, the perfect segue into The Black Keys’ alluring set.

From the minute The Black Keys lead singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach walked on stage, he set the stage for a musical experience incomparable to many other concerts. After a decade-long career in the music business, Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney learned how to entertain stadium-sized audiences with their tiny two-man band.

The Black Keys made it clear that the show was going to revolve around the music and not the artists themselves. Between every song, there was a blackout and a moment of silence to let the previous song sit, making each tune more memorable than the previous. Neither Auerbach nor Carney gave speeches or said more than a few words to the crowd. This sense of artist silence lent the idea that their music was supposed to be enjoyed live. Listening to The Keys on an iPod is great, but when Auerbach and Carney offer up the real thing, feeling the music is their main priority.

The two were staged on the same level, showing off their duality in their music, just as both the drums and the guitar cohesively carry along each of their ballads. Auerbach’s wailing indie-rock lyrics combined with Carney’s definitive head bangs clearly displayed the band’s adoration for their music.

Using the lights show and stage setup wisely, The Black Keys signaled to their audience the difference between the songs they were playing and the albums they came from. When Auerbach began the twangy, loud power chords of “Howlin’ For You” off their album, “Brothers,” the crowd went wild singing along, enjoying the classic twist between blues and rock with rustic golden lighting and strobes. As the show went on and the duo performed hits from their new album, psychedelic patterns, camera filters and contrasting lights showed off the “Turn-Blue” mellow that fans were snapping along to.

The band did a good job of playing all sorts of hits from many of their albums. It sprinkled its classics with newer anthems from its “Turn Blue” album. These tunes were easily distinguished by the mellow, psychedelic feel, dripping with the power chords that define The Black Keys’ style.

The just under two-hour set started off with “Dead and Gone” and quickly amazed the crowd with full-stage lights. Artist cameras were unveiled during their follow-up, “Run Right Back.” The band quickly got to a chaotic, skwonky “Gold On The Ceiling” sing-along from their Grammy-winning album, “El Camino.” It even played its own rendition of Edwyn Collins’ “Girl Like You” that had fans swaying and dancing in the aisles of the arena.

Even though the Black Keys can fill an arena with their strums, pounds and riffs, the band could not sell out the Bradley Center. In fact, the place seemed semi-empty for a band of The Black Keys’ stature. Its music is fit for more of a bar or music house venue, but its popularity would have outdone the space restraints.

By the end of the show, the crowd was aching to hear more as the band walked off the stage, returning to play a three-song acoustic encore, featuring “Little Black Submarines.” Following the guitar/drum breakdown, the crowd was satisfied. The show brought everything to be expected of The Keys and they had everyone screaming until their faces turned blue, but the affectionate band should render their talents in a more intimate venue next time they take on Milwaukee.

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