The Schottenstein Center was feeling anything but blue Friday night as thousands of adoring fans flocked to take in The Black Keys’ Columbus stop on the band’s Turn Blue tour.
Cage The Elephant provided a very complementary opening act with a very, very high energy performance. This 5-member powerhouse looked like it walked straight out of a high-end vintage boutique with the group’s short-sleeved button ups, blazers and loafers. I got there with about 30 minutes left in the set, so the band was just starting to bring out the big guns. “Cigarette Daydream,” “Wicked” and “Back Against the Wall” really got the crowd going and in fact, at some points, the fans were actually singing louder than lead singer Matt Schultz.
Cage The Elephant is a relatively new band after joining forces in 2006. To watch this group though, you would think the members were seasoned veterans. I couldn’t help but laugh at the totally free dance moves the lead was displaying. His lack of inhibition suggested that he knew what he was doing, and he knew people were eating it up. Toward the end of “Back Against the Wall,” Schultz brushed back his long sweaty from his boyish face, ripped off his small, red button-up and leapt into the crowd. He clung to his corded mic and finished the song without skipping a beat. “Columbus, I feel like we’ve finally bonded,” he said after surfing his way back up on stage.
“Shake Me Down” is one of its better songs with a perfect combination of treble and bass. The other pieces of the band carried the tune because Schultz needed another dose of hands-on interaction from the Columbus crowd. He, again, leapt into the hundreds of welcoming hands.
The driving rhythm of “Come a Little Closer” refused to let spectator listen quietly. The virtually filled upper deck, bowl and pit was a sea of bobble heads. Cage The Elephant definitely left us wanting more.
The 20ish minute between acts gave me a chance to get acquainted with my surroundings. Besides the “American Idol” Live Season 7 concert I attended when I was a tween and David Cook performed, this was my first actual rock concert. A majority of the fans consisted of 60-something-year-old men with wrinkly arm tats your parents warn you about and VIP lanyards, short 30-year-old men who wore several rings with their sort of emo girlfriends and cool hipsters with marble plugs and Turn Blue tees. It was a great crowd, with very affectionate fans. They were the type of people who you could accidently bump into all night and not bat an eyelash because they were so engrossed in the music. Just as the overpowering smell of body odor, incense and weed was beginning to waft my way from the pit, the lights fell and a countdown streamed from the speakers.
Patrick Carney sat down at his drum kit and Dan Auerbach positioned himself in front of his mic with a guitar slung across his body. The set resembled an old vaudeville scene with a theatrical red curtain backdrop, several sets of theater lights on pulleys on either side of the stage and lots of box speakers positioned around the stage. “My Next Girl” was up first with “Your Touch” on deck and “Gold on the Ceiling” in the hole. Before the latter song, the red curtain backdrop fell to reveal a ruffled, royal blue curtain behind several racks of studio lights that illuminated the stage in a beautiful way.
“It feels so good to be back in Ohio,” Auerbach took a moment to say before moving right along with the set list.
Carney and Auerbach, originally from Akron, are a couple of suave dudes. While they do have bass and keyboard accompaniment, it’s virtually a two-man show. The wardrobes selections complimented the tasteful stage; Auerbach wearing some blue jeans and a white tee and Carney sporting a black button up and his trademark black frames.
Most of the time, the instruments overpowered the vocals, making it hard to distinguish one song from another, but with the combination of the dark, driving guitar chords and incessant rhythm, The Keys really rocked.
Auerbach, the lead singer, has such a thick, musky voice that sounded as good live as it does on the album and is showcased in “Too Afraid to Love You” because of the softer instrumental accompaniment. “Dead and Gone” is one of my favorite Keys songs, which was up next followed by “Gotta Get Away.” From the sounds of it, I was the only one in the whole area who didn’t know every word to that one.
The group lost a few points, though, when the banter about OSU athletics began. I was praying to all that is holy that he wouldn’t impulsively shout out the dreaded, “O-H” that has become somewhat of a sacred cow to artists performing in Columbus. Thankfully, we were spared.
During the final songs, the audience couldn’t help but attempt to surf fans up onto the stage. One after another, people would float across the crowd up toward the stage and one after another, they were escorted out of the area by security guards. Valiant effort by the Columbus crowd though. Carney and Auerbach covered Edwyn Collin’s “A Girl Like You.”
Then finally, The Black keys played “Tighten Up,” and “Fever,” sending the fans into a frenzy. The pit was moving with bouncing bodies and fist pumps. “Lonely Boy” finished out the scheduled set.
The light lowered, the exit signs glowed, the fans screamed. Queue the monotonous “encore” chant. The band let the needy crowd wait about five minutes before they teetered back onstage.
“You knew we were gonna play a couple more for ya, didn’t you?” Auerbach taunted. Up first was a jazzy little number called “Act Nice and Gentle.” The Black Keys elongated the encore with an extended play of “Little Black Submarine.” The song started out slow and quiet but it wasn’t long before the band was at full volume. After the final guitar strums and drum strikes, Auerbach threw his pick, blew a kiss and The Black Keys signed off.
The stars aligned last night during The Black Keys concert. I think this will be one people are going to be talking about for a while.