Howlin’ for You: The Black Keys at the Joe Louis Arena

20 Sep

Black Keys screen - Auerbach

Dan Auerbach

Black Keys screen - Carney

Patrick Carney

Concertpalooza came to a close on September 12 in a familiar place: the Joe Louis Arena, experiencing the Black Keys with my loved ones as concert buddies (this time, my partner along with our younger daughter). It was the perfect show to cap off an exhilarating summer of live music!

Props to the headliner for choosing stellar talent as opening acts. In 2011 they had the Arctic Monkeys on board. Our leg of the tour this time featured Cage the Elephant while other lucky people get to see Jake Bugg or St. Vincent; any of those bands could hold their own topping the bill. Cage the Elephant’s music is bouncy and fun, personified by their inexhaustible lead singer Matt Shultz. You may know their single from 2009, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” Check them out!

“Fun” isn’t the word I’d use to describe the Black Keys, though. Their music is fuzzed out, feedback-fueled blues rock … and their personal lives are even more distorted. Most of what I’ve read about them – the horrifying account of guitarist Dan Auerbach’s recent divorce; the 5000-word piece in Salon that drummer Patrick Carney’s wife wrote about their divorce; the Twitterstorm Carney kicked up over Justin Bieber; and the TMZ-fed feud Jack White forced onto Auerbach when he questioned Dan’s worthiness as a blues musician (sample hissy fit: Jack told his ex-wife to pull their kids out of the Nashville elementary school where Dan’s daughter attends) – tells me these guys are drama magnets. Lighthearted they ain’t.

Therefore, it was surprising and gratifying that they seemed to have a great time performing at the Joe. Auerbach did a lot of smiling between numbers, thanking the audience and raving about Detroit fans. (Who knows what Carney was feeling since he rarely smiles and doesn’t talk during concerts; he’s Teller to Auerbach’s Penn.) Auerbach’s bottom-heavy guitar style, snaky licks and atmospheric songwriting keep the songs tight and catchy; plus, the guy’s got a strong, distinctive voice. Carney is the first to agree with my partner that he “sucks at drums,” and he swerved off tempo more than once during the evening. When he was on, though, he brought the heavy ammunition.

If you want to bone up on less gossipy, more nuts-and-bolts trivia about the band, watch this:

Since I saw them in 2011, the Black Keys have cemented their status as a straight up, non-pop, 21st-century rock-and-roll band. For the two dudes from Akron, there wasn’t another choice. As Carney said in Rolling Stone,

When we were in ninth grade, we were well aware that if we wanted to go to a good school, it wasn’t a possibility – that we didn’t have the money. So it’s like, what do you have from there? You have rock & roll!

Detroit needs rock and roll. The city is fighting for an identity we can be proud of, something beyond blight and bankruptcy. Bands that shout “Detroit Rock City!” earn a roar of appreciation. Auerbach and Carney went a step further, honoring a local hero by playing for their first time ever a cover of Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” Not for the first time that evening, half the audience (the male half anyway) broke out their air guitars, danced without rhythm and high fived each other, proud of themselves and damned glad to be there no matter what the troubles were outside the arena.

The Black Keys understand how a guitar and a drum kit can blast away your problems, and for that we’re all grateful.

See you on the flipside … and mark your calendars: I’ll be one of the featured local writers at the Books & Authors event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on October 26, promoting Love and Other B-Sides to my closest friends and perfect strangers from 11 AM – 5 PM. Come see!

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8 Responses to “Howlin’ for You: The Black Keys at the Joe Louis Arena”

  1. royboy49 September 20, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    saw them a couple years ago – just a fabulous show! great review!

    • lpon45 September 20, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Thanks! I’m glad to know you’re a fellow Black Keys fan, too – you’re a complex cat, Roy!

  2. pamhoughton September 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    Interesting review and information about the Black Keys. Glad to see you are doing the Leon and Lulu thing – my husband and I went there last year. To browse, and talk to an author I know. Maybe we will see you there this year.

    • lpon45 September 20, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Pam. I’m looking forward to the Books & Author event. Please bring anyone you know – the more, the merrier!

  3. Philip Sherman September 22, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    You should moonlight for Rolling Stone as its Detroit correspondent. Good stuff, fun to read.

    • lpon45 September 22, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      That’s very nice of you to say, Philip! RS would probably object to the fact that most of my concert reportage centers around 1) whether or not I get beer on my shoes 2) hoping to God I’m not the oldest person in the venue and 3) quoting actual RS writers.

  4. Pets to Go September 22, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Lisa,
    I just tried to plug your event with some friends of mine, but I’m wondering–will you have books to sell at the event?

    • lpon45 September 22, 2014 at 11:05 am #

      Yes, indeed! Thanks for promoting the event. It will be a great chance to meet local writers of all stripes and buy their books direct.

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