Last Night: The Black Keys at the Granada Theater

The Black Keys Granada Theater September 26, 2008

Better than: Standing next to a drunken lawyer all night, listening to him extol the virtues of The Black Keys, telling you how they could’ve toured with Cream.

The night could not have been more of a yin and yang evening. The night opened with the fantastic and virtually unknown Jessica Lea Mayfield. Opening the night up with her version of a countrified Mazzy Star was in stark contrast the bombastic blues-rock style of the Akron, Ohio-based headliners.

While Mayfield was on stage the crowd was courteous, and seemingly receptive. Sure, they clapped and cheered at all the right moments (like when a song ended), but during her performance the din of voices rivaled the old Gypsy Tea Room. Unfortunately, the crowd talked over what ended up being a spectacular performance.

During the break in between sets, the crowd seemed to come alive in anticipation of The Black Keys—even chanting their name to summon the band to the stage. Each time the mood music dropped between sets, the crowd would start up cheering again.

The Keys finally made a subdued arrival onstage, with singer Dan Auerbach starting their show by asking the crowd, “How ya doin’?” From that simple beginning on, the band turned in a fantastic and energetic set. While Patrick Carney’s funky bluesy drums laid down the rhythm for the entire night, Auerbach pogo-ed, swayed and jumped around stage like a man possessed.

Nothing could be taken away from the Black Keys set. They played crowd pleasers like “10 AM Automatic”, putting as much energy into their set as they could muster. However, there were very few moments during the show when the crowd broke from its motionless scenester stance. With The Keys turning in a stunning and energetic set, it was a shame the crowd couldn’t return the energy the Keys were sending out. The audience seemed to care more about being seen than loving the show.

The only time the crowd actually had a response to what was going on was at the end of each song – applause that seemed more to say, “Yeah, were still here” than the more appropriate, “We love you guys!”

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It wasn’t until the Keys neared the end of their first set that the crowd finally realized they were actually interested to be at the show. The crowd finally awoke from its cooler-than-cool slumber during “Stack Shot Billy.” As Auerbach cranked out his version of rocked-out blues licks, the crowd finally began to properly bob their heads, pump their fists and shake their asses. When the opening licks of “Busted” from The Big Come Up began the crowd actually seemed to truly come alive. It was one of the few times the crowd seemed excited to be at the show. Personal Bias: I’m not an expert on the blues, but every time I’ve heard the blues, each portion the fret board was used—not just the lower register notes. It would’ve been nice if Auerbach would’ve worked his way up the fret board and not just the lower notes.

By The Way: Jessica Lea Mayfield is the real deal. She not only deserved to open up for The Black Keys -- she could headline a smaller show herself. Her version of country music could carry a show on its own. --Lance Lester

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