Black Keys at the Santa Barbara Bowl (Oct. 2, 2012)
Paul Wellman

Every year it seems, the Bowl plays host to one act that unites the Santa Barbara masses, first in a mad dash for seats and then, come showtime, a whole lot of communal revelry. In 2012, that hot-ticket slot belonged to The Black Keys. The Akron, Ohio, duo of guitarist/frontman Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have proved to be one of the music business’s most unlikely goldmines in recent years. Their specific brand of hard-hitting and hook-driven blues rock has earned them three Grammys and heavy Top 40 radio rotation, not to mention nearly 2.5 million Facebook fans. The refreshing twist? In concert, The Black Keys’ garage-y tunes hold up to the hype.

On Tuesday night, Canadian sister-duo Tegan and Sara delivered a surprisingly dance-ready opening set, filled with synth-smattered reworkings of their catchy—and, at one time, acoustic guitar–fueled—pop rock. Among the highlights, “Back in Your Head” provided for some serious toe tapping, while new track “Closer” vied for Passion Pit’s electronic grandiosity.

Still, there was no question which act Tuesday’s crowd had turned out for, and when Auerbach and Carney took the stage at a little after 8 p.m., they seemed eager to let us know why. Hits like “Howlin’ for You,” “Next Girl,” and “Gold on the Ceiling” made up the front half of the night’s set list and included additional manpower in the form of backup guitarist/organist John Wood and bassist Gus Seyffert. But the evening’s highlights all came when Auerbach and Carney were left on their own. As a duo, they delivered a stunning “Little Black Submarine” that exploded from soulful to rip-roaring in a matter of seconds. Later, the pair loosened their grip on “She’s Long Gone,” tearing through the track with a furious head-to-head drum-and-guitar blitz. Come closing time, “Everlasting Light” worked its sentimental magic while a galaxy of disco-ball light flecked the capacity crowd. It was a glorious, if slightly cheesy production trick, but it also added some well-deserved shimmer to a band that, in its rawest form, simply lives to shred.

Set List:

1. “Howlin’ for You”

2. “Next Girl”

3. “Run Right Back”

4. “Same Old Thing”

5. “Dead and Gone”

6. “Gold on the Ceiling”

7. “Thickfreakness”

8. “Girl Is on My Mind”

9. “Your Touch”

10. “Little Black Submarine”

11. “Money Maker”

12. “Strange Times”

13. “Chop and Change”

14. “Nova Baby”

15. “Ten Cent Pistol”

16. “She’s Long Gone”

17. “Tighten Up”

18. “Lonely Boy”

19. “Everlasting Light”

20. “I Got Mine”


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