A crisp fall evening brought us to Anaheim to see The Black Keys, show number three in So Cal during their massive worldwide stadium tour.
Two nights earlier the duo from Akron, Ohio — also home to basketball superstar LeBron James, Alcoholics Anonymous, and the first breakfast cereal (Quaker Oats) — arrived in LA where they played back-to-back shows at the Staples Center.
To give you an example of how far the duo has come since their days back in rural Ohio, the LA dates were sandwiched between engagements from Justin Beiber and Madonna.
I hadn’t seen The Keys perform since 2008 when they came through the KCRW studio for their second live performance and interview with Nic Harcourt (the first time they came to the station was nearly a decade ago, in 2003).
I remember when they played the Roxy, and a few years later when they returned to dazzle the crowd at The Wiltern — a slightly larger venue with a capacity of roughly two-thousand.
I remember how thrilling the performance was back then, even when it took place in a tiny, sun-drenched recording studio early in the morning.
When Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums) deliver their signature blues-meets-rock sound it always seems to immediately grab everyone in the room. Excessively hooky or not, it’s really hard to not pay attention.
And it’s not the music alone. Something about the concept of a strong musical duo produces a tight-knit and intimate energy that’s oftentimes hard to replicate. Think Jack and Meg, Alison and Jamie, even Matt and Kim.
Years later they infused the exact energy to the present tour, performing for tens of thousands of fans every night.
That night in Anaheim, the band seamlessly translated their reverb-laden, soaring rock sound to a stadium setting complete with trippy visuals, HD cameras, and the pricey beer and hot dogs to match (sadly, no cereal was present at this particular show).
This time around they brought bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist John Wood on board to assist on material from later albums. About halfway through the set, the group stripped back to the original twosome as they proceeded to dive into older material.
Perhaps it was a sigh of relief to witness a real rock show at an arena (the last two I saw were the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga). Or maybe, it was the energy of the crowd I was vibing from. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the wash of the originality, the rhythm and sound, of what we drove an hour and a half to experience. The music. Completely original and synergistic, just as it was back then.