Last Night: Kings of Leon with Black Keys, September 17

Photo by Ian Witlen
Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill at Cruzan Amphitheatre.

Kings of Leon with Black Keys
Cruzan Ampitheatre, West Palm Beach
Friday, September 17, 2010

For a slideshow of the concert, click here.

LeBron James wasn't the only Akron icon to ditch Northeast Ohio this past year. The Black Keys -- consisting of drummer Patrick Carney and guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach -- have long been solemn defenders of their Rust Belt motherland. But they recently packed up themselves, with Carney heading to New York and Auerbach moving to Nashville.

It's kind of the way things go: The moment your star really begins to explode, you flee the land of pierogies and burning river water faster than you can say "C.C. Sabathia". And for the Black Keys, their last album, Brothers, marked their coming-out party into mainstream fame. "Chop and Change" was on the Twilight soundtrack, for Christ's sakes.

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They made the pilgrimage to South Florida as the opening act for Kings of Leon, the anthem rockers last seen fleeing the stage in St. Louis after a pigeon pooped in bassist Jared Followill's mouth. Why does writing that sentence feel so good?

Soon after the Keys took the stage, Auerbach announced that he would be "bringing some of his friends" to help them out. That piqued your County Grind correspondent's hope that he was referring to any of the rappers featured on their recent Blakroc, a rock/hip-hop fusion album that -- we can't make this shit up -- doesn't suck. We weren't holding our breath for Jay-Z, but certainly Billy Danze has nothing better to do?

No such luck. The Black Keys' "help" consisted of a bassist and a keyboardist to help them through most of their 11-song set, much of it pulled from Brothers. They ignored Blakroc all together, and only played a couple of songs -- such as "Strange Times" -- from their grittier early albums.

Somehow, the Keys didn't merit the use of Cruzan's projector screens, so from where we sat in the lawn, all we could see were a couple of blurry figures lost in the green haze of stage lighting -- and their sound equipment seemed somewhat muted too. The band is supposed to rattle dingy little whiskey-soaked dive bars, but on this night, Carney and Auerbach could have peacefully accompanied a picnic.

The crowd -- totally Caucasian and predominantly smashed -- augmented their buzz, yelled into cell phones, or made out on lawn blankets during the Keys' set. But the Kings of Leon had their full attention. And I must admit, their quasi-anthem-rock sound -- with the crowd joining them in full force to songs like "Use Somebody" and "Notion"-- was definitely better suited to this venue.

But every time the Kings of Leon started to slightly win me over with their more soulful songs, they'd then break out something like "Sex on Fire", or as I call it, the STD anthem. There's just something dangerously Scott Stapp-esque about the way lead singer Caleb Followill squeezes his eyes shut all-constipated-style and puts his, like, heart out there, bro.

Then again, my companion and I appeared to be the only people in the audience who thought the concert's billing should have been flipped -- and that St. Louis pigeons must have good music taste.

Critic's Notebook

Better than: The Black Keys opening for Justin Bieber.

Personal Bias: Uh, you probably picked up on that. I did live in Northeast Ohio for a year and once interviewed Patrick Carney, who laid into fellow Akronite Chrissie Hynde for abandoning the town. Ouch, the irony.

Random Detail: A little taste of lawn douche: A few slightly-on-the-plus-size women were on their feet dancing to Kings of Leon, thoroughly enjoying themselves, when another chick behind us flicked her lit cigarette on to their blanket. Snickered her male companion, a preppy college kid thoroughly imbued with Bud Light: "Take that, fatties!"

By the way: When you go to Cruzan, don't spend the ten or twenty bucks parking in the venue's lots. There is a better way. I can't tell you more than that because I don't want to alert any authorities, but just think outside the box as you're approaching the place.

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