When I heard the Black Keys were playing BB&T Center, I was skeptical. I thought, no rock band formed in the 21st century can fill up an entire arena. That's a venue for boy bands, hip-hop moguls, and rockers with membership to the AARP.
But as the Black Keys took the stage at 9:15 p.m., it became apparent that rock and roll was not dead. And it truly was an all ages show -- from teenyboppers out late on a school night to grandmas and grandpas, every kind of fan was in attendance. There were a couple empty seats. But it didn't matter, since no one sat down during the entirety of the duo's hour and forty five minute, twenty-one song set.
The Akron, Ohio twosome, includes Dan Auerbach -- who sang and played guitar in a T-shirt and leather jacket that he took off after two songs -- and drummer Patrick Carney. Behind them, for added support, was a keyboardist and, so as not to offend Meghan Trainor, a bass player.
The Black Keys stood in front of a projection of curtains which dropped to reveal a myriad of screens displaying the band playing. The multimedia display was the only flair in a no-nonsense retrospective of the band's eight album, thirteen year career.
Auerbach's idea of patter was telling the crowd, "Let's keep this thing going." To be precise, he did mention that they just added "Leavin' Trunk" to their set for the first time in years, and that the one cover of the night, Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You," was one of the two's favorite songs ever. Twice at the end of the main set and after the three song encore he added that "he'd see us soon." Other than that, they let their blues-influenced rock speak for itself.
Of similar lack of verbosity was opener St. Vincent. Her only non-sung words were "good evening," before she went into "Cheerleader."
Backed by two synthesizers and a drummer, St. Vincent offers an ethereal dreamy robotic synthesized beat contrasted nicely by her occasional shredding of a guitar. It was almost jarring to see her singing as her ice queen stage persona one second, and then a beat later going full on guitar goddess managing the effects pedal in high heels.
With the large crowd present it seemed the Black Keys and St. Vincent have figured out the formula of what draws an audience: Less talk, more music.
St. Vincent Setlist:
"Birth in Reverse"
"Bring Me Your Loves"
The Black Keys Setlist:
"Dead and Gone"
"Run Right Back"
"Same Old Thing"
"Gold on the Ceiling"
"Too Afraid to Love You"
"Howlin' for You"
"A Girl Like You" (Edwyn Collins cover)
"Gotta Get Away"
"She's Long Gone"
"Weight of Love"
"Little Black Submarines"