The Black Keys delighted a nearly sold-out crowd at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena Saturday night (March 3) with hardly a single concession to the massive jump in venue size since their last headlining tour.

It was the just the second show in support of the soulful rock band’s new album ‘El Camino,’ but more importantly the first since their last disc, 2010′s ‘Brothers,’ catapulted singer / guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney to super-stardom. Happily, this success doesn’t seem to have affected their onstage demeanor at all.

Casually strolling onto a mostly empty stage framed by modest video screens that displayed graphic patterns or live footage, Carney, Auerbach and their two touring bandmates (Gus Seyffert on bass and John Wood on keyboards) ripped into a brisk take on ‘Howling for You’ to open the show.

After functioning as a stripped-down duo for most of their steadily climbing career, the Black Keys have added bass and keyboards to both their records and tours over the last couple of years. These additions have both filled out their sound and emphasized the old-school R&B influence that previously was more of an undercurrent in their music. As a result, new songs like ‘Run Right Back’ and ‘Lonely Boy’ feature deep grooves and choruses perfect for thousands of people to sing along to — which is pretty much what everybody did.

Unsurprisingly, two of the highlights were a pair of standout tracks from ‘El Camino’ — the buzzing and absolutely insanely catchy ‘Gold on the Ceiling’ and the dynamic two-part riff-rocker ‘Little Black Submarines.’ The set was balanced nicely with songs from all eras of the band’s career. A mid-show set featuring just the two original members offered a nice throwback for old-school fans and proved that the duo could fill the room with sound all by themselves.

A pair of oversized mirrorballs were about as high-tech as things got on the production side, and they added a nice atmosphere to Auerbach’s falsetto crooning on ‘Everlasting Light.’ Overall, the sound could have been a little louder and clearer, particularly at the start of the show, but perhaps that was due to the venue’s inherent acoustics or the newness of working on this scale to the group.

Opening act the Arctic Monkeys did an absolutely fantastic job, not only holding the attention of the crowd but no doubt winning over new fans with their sinewy, twisting and bracing brand of rock ‘n’ roll.

Watch the Black Keys Perform ‘Ten Cent Pistol’ Live in Detroit


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