Music Reviews — 24 September 2014
The Black Keys & Cage The Elephant Bring Rock to Brooklyn

The Black Keys and Cage The Elephant

A LocalBozo.com Concert Review
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
September 23, 2014

Touring in support of the release of 2013′s “True Blue,” Akron, Ohio’s The Black Keys headlined the first of a two night stint at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Tuesday night. With support from Kentucky’s Cage The Elephant, the jam packed arena was rocking for the better part of three hours led by some of the most creative and infectious music-makers in the rock genre today. And the energy level in the building never wavered as both bands set out to invigorate the New York market right from the get go in their lone area stop on this run.

Concert Review: Cage the Elephant at Barclays Center

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Though a large chunk of fans were still filing in as the five members of Cage The Elephant headed out to the stage, the small but vocal audience that would initially welcome the band would grow considerably over the course of their frenetic 45 minute set. Pacing through their eleven songs like an uncontrollable catalyst, frontman Matthew Shultz led the audience by example in his signature fashion- his non-stop strutting, clapping and body movements left the crowd no choice but to follow his lead. The electric “Spiderhead,” which has taken over as the band’s opening track with relative permanence since its release last year, lit an immediate fuse with fans, sparking an energetic flame that wouldn’t cease until the band’s performance had finished.

Guitarist Brad Shultz as usual, was equally as captivating.  Though he spends more time engaging with his six strings than he does focusing on the audience, the different ways that the two brothers harness their unparalleled energy on stage is utterly infectious. Newer tracks like “Take It or Leave It” and “Cigarette Daydreams” have taken their rightful place in the setlist beside crowd-pleasers like “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked,” which seems to get better and better each time out. And the defiant “It’s Just Forever,” perhaps the band’s most raucous cut with its quickly changing ebbs and flows was a much welcome addition to their unrelenting performance. The last third of the set would showcase the band’s now shirtless (and ripped) frontman crowdsurfing while continuing to sing “Come a Little Closer,” a fitting and dynamic closure for the opening slot that nicely warmed up the crowd for the headliner to follow.

Concert Review: The Black Keys at Barclays Center

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A far more elaborate stage setup would be readied for the arrival of The Black Keys, a two piece that’s transcended their brand from garage rock in small clubs to fledged arena tours, ascending in meteoric fashion. Though they’ve only been headlining the arena circuit for a short time, you’d have had no idea by the way the four piece touring act owned the stage for their just under two hour set, performing cohesively and patrolling the stage like a bunch of old hands. Backed by an array of blue and purple colored lights and nearly a dozen screens that would transition behind them after each song, The Black Keys absolutely ravaged the excitable crowd with a cavalcade of hits from their immense catalog.

Frontman Dan Auerbach is largely so captivating because of his relatively unassuming persona. Save for the lone sign – a leather jacket – an untrained eye might not recognize that Auerbach is a rock star- his everyman style hardly jumps out at you from his attire down to his hardly flashy stage presence. Perhaps that’s what makes the band so relatable to fans- that a show even in a venue of this size feels like The Black Keys are letting you into their garage for a glimpse of their musical talents, skills which far exceed any penchant for the pomp and circumstance typically associated with arena rock shows.  Instead, their fairly basic live show highlights the catchy riffs and strong songwriting that’s endeared them to so many, punctuated by the singer’s versatile vocals and skilled guitar playing.  Drummer Patrick Carney meanwhile is a warrior on his drum kit and the Keys’ songs serve to showcase his ability to become the show’s focus, tirelessly pounding on his snare and cowbell often as the spotlight fades from Auerbach.

Among the band’s twenty one song set, highlights were plentiful- from the upbeat rock opener “Dead and Gone” to their cover of Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You,” an excellent addition to a performance rife with them. Unsurprisingly, fans went bonkers for singles like “Howlin’ for You,” “Tighten Up” and set closer “Lonely Boy,” revved up to an even further frenzy with Auerbach’s prodding for New York to show some love. But throwback style rock tracks like “Nova Baby” and “Money Maker” and the anthemic “Gotta Get Away” from the band’s latest release, worked equally as well in the live setting and were particularly strong moments.

Following a bit of an extended encore, fans lit up the venue with cell phones as they hooted and hollered for the return of The Black Keys. Appeasing the audience’s desire, the band mellowed out some with “Weight of Love” and “Turn Blue” before turning the volume back up on the slow build toward the wild chorus of “Little Black Submarines,” during which the crowd exploded in kind. Looking down from our seats, the entire arena floor seemed to became one big dance party- engineered by a couple of regular musicians from Ohio who now seem to have the whole world resting at their feet.

The Black Keys and Cage The Elephant return for a second concert at Barclays Center in Brooklyn tonight, September 24th.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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