The Black Keys had their fans howlin' at the MTS Centre Monday.
The Akron, Ohio-natives roared into Winnipeg for the second time in less than a year and managed to attract a crowd of 7,500 to the arena, an increase from the 6,300 who caught them at the same venue last July.
An increase in attendance for a band visiting town twice in 10 months is a tricky feat, but it seems guitarist-vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have a knack for defying expectations.
The duo is an unlikely success story, since their style of garagey blues-rock isn't something that typically fills hockey rinks, but a solid streak of delivering great albums and relentless touring over the past decade proves sometimes hard work can pay off.
The band's show has gotten a bit slicker in the past year with a bigger light show to augment the three large videos screens above and behind them and the duo look more comfortable playing the big room.
"Should we just start?" Auerbach asked as he and Carney, accompanied by bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboard-guitarist John Wood, walked on stage and launched into the fuzzed out party anthem, Howlin' For You, off the multiple Grammy Award-winning album Brothers. They kept the energy up with the relatively simple Next Girl and rocker Run Right Back from their latest release, El Camino, before working up a heavy groove on Same Old Thing.
Dead and Gone had the crowd singing along to the "oh oh oh" chorus before they got their garage rock ya-yas out on the hit single, Gold on the Ceiling.
The two extra musicians left the stage so Auerbach — who was celebrating his 33rd birthday Monday — and Carney could work up their own magic, which was easy to achieve; in fact, the middle section with just the two of them proved to be a high point of the night.
Older songs Thickfreakness and I'll Be Your Man buzzed and throbbed with raw power, while Little Black Submarines was a tender ballad that had the crowd singing along while Auerbach played a resonator guitar.
When Seyffert and guitarist-keyboardist John Wood returned, the group stomped through some more highlights with Money Maker, the psychedelic Ten Cent Pistol and the bouncy Lonely Boy, which finished off the main 65-minute set and had the crowd stomping and screaming for more.
They got their wish, with a three-song encore that included the falsetto-flavoured Everlasting Light as a giant mirror ball spun overhead and illuminated the arena, She's Long Gone and the nasty blues blast of I Got Mine with just Auerbach and Carney on stage thrashing and bashing before a quick wave and goodbye, leaving the crowd howling for more.
Opening act the Arctic Monkeys are huge in their home country of England where they can headline festivals and sell out arenas, but here they don't have anywhere near the presence (they attracted 1,300 to the Burton Cummings Theatre last year).
It's too bad, since the quartet led by Alex Turner is an adventurous group that has mined the last 30 years of British music to create a fun mix of herky-jerky post-punk and dance-rock that brings to mind, at times, bands like the Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, the Clash and Oasis.
They touched on all four of their albums, offering up fast riff-heavy numbers like Brainstorm and Pretty Visitors, punky blasts like I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor and The View From the Afternoon, along with some slower numbers.
And on top of the music, Turner is a great lyricist as he rattles off lines about late-night pickups, life in Sheffield or pure nonsense that sounds like abstract poetry.