Arts & EventsThe Black Keys Heat Up Cold and Wet Crowd

The Black Keys Heat Up Cold and Wet Crowd

The Black Keys Heat Up Cold and Wet Crowd

Well, that was interesting. Mixed feelings are really the most prominent ones when it comes to the whole experience of the fourth night at Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest. On a night that began with the humble, orchestral beauty of the Newfoundland collective Hey Rosetta! on The Hard Rock stage, then turned into an hour wait after being beaten by torrential raindrops and ended with the tardy but shattering slam-rock of headliners The Black Keys - you could say that most of us were a little beside ourselves.

After Rise Against finished their crashing punk-rock set to open the night, the darkening sky and initial spatter of rain caused the concert goers to question their next move. They could stay in the audience and frustrate others with unwieldy umbrellas, leave the grounds entirely, or stick it out fully unprepared and ready to get a little damp and dirty.

Most dedicated festival-goers and Black Keys fans chose the latter, and although the nearly hour and 20-minute wait for the headliners was one of the most unenjoyable concert stands for miles, the prize at the finish line was unbelievable. You see, the wait for the band was understandable at first upon watching the violent downpour lead to technicians tarping the instruments and equipment. But, after no communication from a festival spokesperson or messaging on the big screens (aside from a brief WordPad message nearly all the way into the long haul wait), the morale felt low and the crowd was agitated from within. In the middle of the heaps, it thinned and shifted as some left disgruntled and projecting boos, while others (myself and crew) were not pleased but completely determined to rock. Don't get me wrong, the expected 25,000 fans wasn’t a far off prediction; even after the cold and blustery episode, the house was still packed with the anticipation of getting to see the famed Ohio blues-rockers jump on stage for the last half-hour of the night.

The disappointing lack of communication was easier to forget as soon as Dan Auerbach and his drumming sidekick Patrick Carney took the stage at 10:40 pm, hammering out the first beats and fuzzy guitar strums of “Everlasting Light” off the Grammy-winning album Brothers to an enthralled fan base. The pair played mainly the scorching rock ‘n roll album, which is chock-full of catchy blues-rock concepts and storylines that have captivated the music universe. Although surprised to hear that the band wasn’t at first more apologetic for the tardy start time, the trimmed and clean-cut Auerbach dove head first into playing as many addictive tunes as soon as possible; powering through percussion-heavy tracks like “Howlin’ for You,” “She’s Long Gone” and “Strange Times.” Carney looked like he was running a marathon as he pummeled his sticks down on to the drum set, while Auerbach exuded determination to tear his guitar strings apart with undeniably sizzling solos and creamy smooth vocals. When the sound cut out suddenly, grumbles and boos rose up again before the issue was sorted, and Auerbach made clear, “Against all odds we’re going to keep going, until they tell us to stop playing.”

Closing out with upbeat hot rock like “Sinister Kid,” Auerbach commented that the organizers were telling them “this would be the last song of the night.” His response? “Well, maybe it is…maybe it isn’t. We’ll just have to figure that out,” he smirked as the thousands roared at the hint of an encore, which would technically break Bluesfest’s noise curfew. Sure enough, past our curfew and bedtime, we were treated to a few more before the brave rockers left the stage; and we left Bluesfest soaking, a little flabbergasted – but ecstatic that the cold wind and drizzle in the air had been replaced with the hottest rock ‘n roll on the planet.

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