The Black Keys rock Rochester with distinct blend of rock and blues

A loud and enthused cry of “Rochester” was the first greeting the crowd heard on Sunday Sept. 14 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, where The Black Keys performed with openers Cage the Elephant. Cage the Elephant set the mood for the crowd with each high-power hit it played. Although it was a short performance, each member of the band exuded incredible energy that was clearly contagious throughout the crowd, setting the stage for the headliner to come.

The real show started when guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney took the stage to start the Keys' set. They plunged into their show with the catchy “Dead and Gone,” bringing everyone to their feet. It wasn’t until after they finished the second song that the curtain behind the band fell, giving way to a gaudy display of lights and a wild array of various-sized screens. With such a mix of music and intense visuals, the audience could barely contain themselves in their seats.

Despite the highly enjoyable experience, the evening had a few drawbacks. The first one being the venue's muddled acoustics. It was evident that Blue Cross Arena was not the best place to see a musical performance. The only time the sound came through clearly was when Auerbach pulled out his acoustic guitar for “Little Black Submarines”—the famous Led Zeppelin-esque track off their 2011 album El Camino. Auerbach extended the song intro and had the audience in awe.

The only other issue was the tempo at which the band played. Each song they performed seemed to be significantly slower than its original speed. It was not clear whether this was intentional or if maybe they just didn’t have the energy. Perhaps they were just responding to the mellow nature of the crowd.

Aside from the a few wild fans, the crowd was noticeably reserved, save for the people who came early enough to rush the stage. When glancing around the concert arena, one could see that most people stayed in their seats and did not go beyond finger tapping in response to the powerful thundering of the musicians on stage. This was a puzzling sight, but these relaxed few were not prevalent enough to bring down the excited fans that were letting the music do its magic.

Auerbach stole the night with his display of musicianship via his riff-happy, blues-influenced style of guitar playing and through his quiet, tasteful fingerpicking. Carney was completely on point for the evening as well. His drums were set forward to the front of the stage—a classic Black Keys move. Together, the duo gave off an infectious vibe that began at their fingertips and went all the way to the listeners’ dancing feet.

It would not be a Black Keys concert without the audience screaming out the words to the catchy “Fever,” a track off of the group’s latest album Turn Blue and fist-pumping wildly to classics like “Tighten Up” and “Howlin’ For You.”

This concert was no sold-out Madison Square Garden, but it still was a prime example of the fun, sonic experience that is The Black Keys.