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Jeff Moehlis: Howlin’ for The Black Keys

Band's blues-based rock a big hit at the Santa Barbara Bowl

In this particularly strong autumn Santa Barbara concert season, the hottest ticket in town was for The Black Keys at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Tuesday night. They didn’t disappoint.

The band, consisting of power duo Dan Auerbach (vocals, guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums) at the front of the stage, and for much of the show augmented by John Wood (keyboards, guitar) and Gus Seyffert (bass) in the shadows, blasted through a solid set that drew heavily from their last two albums — 2010’s breakthrough Brothers and 2011’s acclaimed follow-up El Camino.

Not surprisingly, the biggest audience response came for the hits off these albums, including the lead-off song “Howlin’ for You,” “Tighten Up,” “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling,” all of which feature a compelling mix of retro blues-based rock and 21st-century pop sensibilities.

But Auerbach and Carney also reminded us that they have a strong back catalog, particularly when it was just the two of them during a mini-set of “Thickfreakness,” “Girl Is on My Mind” and “Your Touch.” Auerbach noted that this was how they performed back when they opened for Beck at the Bowl in 2003.

They continued into “Little Black Submarines,” with Auerbach starting on acoustic guitar and Wood and Seyffert joining back in for the rocking conclusion.

A nice touch throughout their performance was the super cool visuals projected onto a huge screen behind the band, including a speeding car’s view of a roadway during “Gold on the Ceiling.”

I also have to say that the show expanded my admiration for Auerbach’s guitar playing. He has written some monster riffs and gets a killer tone, but thankfully sees no need to cheapen the charm with unnecessary flashiness.

For their encore, a huge disco ball rose up from behind a screen, which provided some trippy ambiance during “Everlasting Light.” They closed with “I Got Mine,” and got a big roar out of the crowd when the words “THE BLACK KEYS” lit up above the stage.

The evening started with an enjoyable set by Canadian twins Tegan and Sara, kicking off with “Walking with a Ghost.” Their songs had a bit more synth than I expected, but the arrangements worked well for the big arena that is the Bowl. I also enjoyed their between-song patter, including the joke that, being from Canada, they were particularly excited to be playing outside in the month of October.

And it was a delightful October evening, particularly for the people lucky enough to get tickets.

Setlist

Howlin’ for You
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Dead and Gone
Gold on the Ceiling
Thickfreakness
Girl Is on My Mind
Your Touch
Little Black Submarines
Money Maker
Strange Times
Chop and Change
Nova Baby
Ten Cent Pistol
She’s Long Gone
Tighten Up
Lonely Boy

Encore

Everlasting Light
I Got Mine

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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