The Black Keys roll through PPG with ‘Let’s Rock’ tour

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                                                                                                                       image via Josh McCann

by Josh McCann

The Black Keys launched into “I Got Mine” and the PPG arena exploded. The first song?! Wait, that can’t be right?! Usually the classic Keys jam is saved for last, but not this time. The bluesy guitar riff amped up to another volume while thunderous drums shook the seats–this was happening! I stood joyfully surprised, one hand holding a large overpriced beer, the other hand waving in the air to the melody. This was the “Let’s Rock” tour, and it was only the beginning of a show that saw The Black Keys bring a mix of their great rock and roll catalog to PPG Arena in Pittsburgh.

Earlier this year fans were excited to hear that the Black Keys had recorded a new album, their first in five years, with a huge tour to follow. “Let’s Rock” features mostly upbeat jams, with lyrics about heartbreak set to classic rock guitar solos and bluesy beats. To put it simply: the album kicks major ass. So I was extra pumped to hear how these new songs would sound during a large arena show. 

Following the epic blast of “I Got Mine”, the band jumped into new stuff, which included a soaring foot-stomp version of “Eagle Birds” followed by the cool crush groove of “Tell Me Lies.” The new material definitely held up quite well. If anything, it kept the upbeat energy alive. They can tell us all the dirrrrty liesssss but that’s the truth! 

Once the show revved up there was no stopping the ride. “Gold on the Ceiling” had everyone singing along to the chorus while bright gold lights flashed on the stage. This was my 8th time seeing the band live, having seen them at festivals, arenas, and even a parking lot—the stage is more elaborate these days. There was a huge oval screen behind the band, with lightning arrows on the sides. The stage had tons of lights, including these hanging poles that would flash different colors. The other band members were in the background, because that’s how the setup has always been. It’s lead singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach up front with drummer Patrick Carney to the side of the stage. Sidenote: In the early days it was just the two of them on stage for the entire show. Two people creating the crazy beautiful rock n roll noise. And as the years went by, the shows got bigger, and they added session players to thicken and boost the songs even more.

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                                                                                                                        image via Josh McCann

The band played “Next Girl”, which sounded great, and brought us back to the “Brothers” era. And then they shifted towards the new album, featuring “Fire Walk with Me” and the stand out slow burner “Walk Across the Water”. Those were awesome in terms of leading into the classic dance falsetto disco jam “Everlasting Light.” The way that song moves and grooves never gets old. See right there. The Black Keys can play fast full throttle jams but also shift gears into a sweet drive down the road. It’s all there man! 

Another great thing about the show was that our section (109!) stood during the concert, which is clutch because you have to get up and dance for this kind of show! The band kicked it up and Auerbach’s guitar roared through the air while Carneys heart pounding drums played a solid stretch of songs, including ”Your Touch”, “Strange Times”, and “Tighten Up”. I was surprised to see “Ten Cent Pistol” in the setlist just because they can only play so many songs, and this was a really good jam to hear live. 

And then came the part of the show that’s becoming the Black Keys staple live song–“Little Black Submarines.” The build up of that song had the crowd singing along, phones in the air, while Dan played on his acoustic guitar. The entire arena anticipated the break in the song. Once Dan stopped, the lights went out, the crowd roared, and we knew what was coming. All of a sudden you hear the crushing guitar chords while Patrick kicks in the drums which sets the place on fire. The lights blare to every beat while Auerbach’s guitar drives into an unbelievable blow-your-mind guitar solo straight from classic rock euphoria. It’s safe to say that the song is always going to be a major highlight of the show. But there’s more! Having the crowd in the palm of their hands, they played “Lonely Boy”, the popular hit with a driving riff and “ooohhhh, oooohh, ooooh” chorus which the crowd chanted along. We always got a love that keeps us waiting, waiting.

The band rarely talked to the crowd, except for when Dan mentioned that Patrick went to school in Pittsburgh. The crowd cheered. That’s how the Black Keys have always been. They established early on with their audience about what their live show was–plug in, play amazing songs, play them loud, leave the crowd wanting more, drive to the next city. The guys from Akron don’t mess around! A possible suggestion–maybe they could have a small catwalk extend into the crowd. It would be cool to see them do a few songs in the middle of the floor. Hmmm, maybe next tour?!

Enore, enore! Who doesn’t love a good encore?! The crowd begged for more, the band came back out, played a couple of new ones, including the very catchy, very righteous riff of “Lo/Hi” and the bouncy dance single “Go”, proving that the new material can stack up against the old. The show ended with a fiery blast of “She’s Long Gone”. People danced in front of us, danced on the floor, I mean, the entire arena had a kick ass time. And that’s what it’s all about right?! The Black Keys showed that their new songs mixed with the classics make for an incredible night of live jams. The set list keeps getting stronger for each tour, and it’s only going to get better. After they played the final riff, Auerbach let the last chord ring out to an extra loud level, the lights flashed as Carney’s drums boomed through the arena; the crowds hands in the air, some clapping, some taking pics, everyone yelling for more. Let’s Rock. Oh it rocked, and then some.

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October 7, 2019

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