The list of 2012 concerts at TD Garden: Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Neil Diamond, Red Hot Chili Peppers… and The Black Keys?
The modest garage rock revival act from Akron, Ohio hit the marquee stage last night with bluesy “Howlin’ For You,” setting up for a formidable arena rock performance that had the sold-out crowd howlin’ for more.
Driven by a punchy, spirited cut off their critically-acclaimed latest album “El Camino,” the duo foreshadowed the atmosphere of the show with a screen behind them showing vintage pictures of faded patterns, country landscapes and long windy roads — eventually giving way to hurrying commuters in blurred cityscapes towards the end of the 90 minute headlining set.
The Keys, made up of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, offered a back-to-basics approach to rock, a fresh breather from the highly produced, synth-heavy popular songs of the last decade.
Guitar and drum solos filled in the spaces between Auerbach’s versatile, heartfelt voice that calls to mind the spirit of some of the rock legends from yesteryear. Akin to the dynamic songs, his voice varies with ease, from slow-burner “Girl is On My Mind” to raucous, in-your-face “Gold On the Ceiling.”
Behind the guitar/drum duo, an unnamed bassist and keyboardist accompanied Auerbach and Carney for most of the set. Yet, a mid-set interlude, which featured just the duo, revisited older cuts such as a retro-rock leaning “Thickfreakness” and a soulful track made a decade ago, “I’ll Be Your Man.” These tracks showcased their full-bodied, stadium-friendly sound, while remaining true to their humble, bluesy beginnings.
This gave way into a memorable performance of “Little Black Submarines,” a slow ballad that climaxed in an uptempo rock ending reminiscent of a 21st century “Stairway to Heaven.”
While most of their performance had the feel of a cozy, down-to-earth rock club, the Keys opened up on the latter half of the set with spotlights shining down on the crowd and a bright, white lit disco ball for the encore.
Auerbach and Carney swept up the set with the radio hit “Tighten Up,” upbeat “Lonely Boy” and a three-song encore including sing-along friendly “Everlasting Light.” Prior to their encore appearance, the venue and corresponding crowd showed their true colors with a riveting chant and stomp that echoed off the rafters of the Garden that felt like a Celtics game.
Brit indie rockers Arctic Monkeys set the stage for the Ohio-based duo with a 45-minute greatest hits set that revved up the crowd, but didn’t do justice to their punchy, post punk-inspired sound. Emphasizing guitar solos and overpowering drums left Alex Turner’s signature voice in the dark. Yet, the Brits finished off strong with an audience-supported “Brick By Brick,” from their latest album, “Suck It and See” as well as a tight, solid version “If You Were There, Beware.”