By Zach Oskrdal (Contributor)
Last Thursday, I attended the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant concert at the Bell Centre. The show lasted about three hours and was great from beginning to end. The audience spent very little time in their seats during the concert, which speaks to the quality of the music and performance in general.
Cage the Elephant, the opening band, walked onto the stage at around eight o’clock. Singer Matt Shultz came flying in with his limbs flailing and head banging, as the energetic riffs of their opening number “In One Ear” ripped through the Bell Centre. On the whole, the band was not one for standing still; their energy was a constant flow. This culminated in a moment of rock and roll magic in which Shultz jumped into the crowd, manoeuvering himself into a standing position on the hands of ecstatic fans, all while dancing and delivering the lyrics to the song at the same time.
As the openers walked off the stage, they left the crowd pumped and ready for the headliners. The crowd was buzzing as the roadies dismantled Cage the Elephant’s set and replaced it with the Black Keys’. There was a mighty roar as a curtain moved aside, briefly revealing the recognizable blue and pink swirl of the “Turn Blue” album cover.
When the much awaited duo finally made their unassuming entrance onto the stage, the crowd went crazy. The energy levels went nowhere but upwards as drummer Patrick Carney led in with his driving beat, opening the set with “Dead and Gone.” From then on, the crowd was in the palm of the performers’ hands as they tore through their 18 song set, comprised mostly of songs off their three most recent albums, “Brothers,” “El Camino”, and “Turn Blue”. The set also contained songs from earlier efforts, as well as a cover of Edwyn Collins’s “A Girl like You.” The incredible dance number “Lonely Boy” topped off the set, and had every single person in attendance dancing.
The crowd was left steeping in the energy of the final number for an unusually long time before the duo made their way back onto the stage. The relentless cheers during that time were rewarded as singer and guitarist Dan Auerback prefaced the first encore “Weight of Love” with the statement: “We weren’t sure if we were gonna play this one, but we think you deserve this. We’ve never played it before, but we hope you like it.” The crowd did, responding to the psychedelic slow burner with flashlights and swaying along with beat as the band moved into the title track of their most recent album, “Turn Blue.” The concert was closed by Auerback grabbing a Spanish style resonator guitar for the first half of “Little Black Submarines”, which turned into an arena wide sing-along. Auerback stepped away from the mic, letting the crowd take the reins. The heavy rock half of the song served as the perfect ending to the concert, getting the crowd up and jumping one last time.
All in all, the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant put on a fantastic performance that made the seats in the Bell Centre totally unnecessary. This was a concert that showcased the bare bones of rock and roll, the connection between the performers and their crowd, and the shared energy that makes the genre so great.