While the Black Keys were in town last weekend to play at summer music festival behemoth Lollapalooza, they also played a late night show at the Metro in Wrigleyville. I am a pretty big fan of the duo from Akron, Ohio, having previously expressed my love for their stellar album Rubber Factory (seriously, listen it to it!). However, summer music festivals aren't my favorite, something about the combination of port-a-potties, the hot summer sun, and poor sound quality just doesn't appeal to me. So naturally I opted to see the Metro show instead and was one of the lucky few non-Lolla attendees to snag tickets.
When I first approached Metro, I saw a line winding pretty far down Clark St. I've attended shows that were sold out before, but never quite this popular. California indie rockers the Morning Benders opened for the Keys. I've been enjoying their most recent album, Big Echo, throughout the summer. It's a nice blend of shoe-gazer and 60s pop-inspired harmonies that manages to sound both old-fashioned and fresh at the same time. The band had more of a forceful, guitar heavy sound in concert and performed a really enjoyable set. Lead singer Christopher Chu was a sarcastic but genial stage presence that slowly won over an initially indifferent crowd. Also, I feel obliged to mention that the Morning Benders are pretty cute in a skinny hipster sort of way. I'd recommend the band to fans of the Arctic Monkeys, the Shins, or Beach House.
During the break between the Morning Benders and the Black Keys sets, I noticed that the girl in front of me kept looking up in the balcony with a mixture of surprise and (I thought) disgust. I assumed someone was doing something stupid, so I looked up there too. Much to my surprise, I saw the pretty, brooding face of Ed Westwick aka. Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl. I felt sort of bad for him, because Chicago audiences aren't quite as cool to celebrities as in New York and L.A.; people were gawking and taking pictures. Also, he was stuck up in the balcony rather than being able to rock out in the pit like the rest of us.
The Black Keys took the stage a little after midnight. Their set featured songs from all six of their albums, though their most recent album Brothers was definitely the focus; they played about 10 songs off of it. They played primarily singles from their older albums, making the show a good primer for newer Keys fans. However, as a nerd, I couldn't help but wish they played some deeper cuts too. Nonetheless, this was definitely an awesome show. I've always been impressed by Dan Auerbach's guitar work, but live, I was blown away by how amazingly talented he is. He's the equivalent of all four Midlake guitarists in one impressively bearded guitar player. The Keys started out as a duo and were later joined on stage by a touring bassist and guitar player. I can't say I really noticed a radical different in sound between the two piece and four piece Black Keys. Dan and drummer Patrick Carney are able to rock enough on their own. Highlights of their set include: "10 A.M. Automatic" from Rubber Factory, "I Got Mine" from Attack and Release, a cover of Junior Kimbrough's "Everywhere I Go" from Thickfreakness, and "She's Long Gone" and "Everlasting Light" from Brothers. My only real quibble with the set was the closer, "Sinister Kid," which is my second least favorite song off of Brothers ("Unknown Brother" is my number one and thankfully wasn't played). It's not a terrible song, but with an incredible song catalog, they could have done much better (like "The Lengths"). Also, it has sort of a weird rhythm, so there was lots awkward dancing going on in the crowd. Still this was definitely among my top two shows of the year so far.
The audience for the show was definitely on the rowdy side. Most of the people had attended Lollapalooza first, so they were more than ready to party, and it was a guy-heavy crowd. The show started out crowded and wound up stuffed to the brim. Between the geeky, in-place dancing done by most the audience (myself very much included) and the sizable crowd, most of the audience was pretty sweaty by the end of the night. It was a fun and enthusiastic crowd that sang along with most of the songs and cheered wildly for everything, except Dan's confessed Lady Gaga love.