Levitation Live Shot: The Arcs
Black Keys frontman rejuvenates
By Doug Freeman,
12:20PM, Sat. Apr. 30, 2016
Dan Auerbach has emphasized that the Arcs are more than just another solo outing, last year’s debut disc, Yours, Dreamily, representing a collective effort. The Black Keys’ guitarist is still the draw – gritty, pounding blues rock still his stock and trade – yet the Arcs release a looseness in Auerbach only rarely surfaced in his previous efforts.
Taking over the Mohawk’s outdoor stage on Friday night as Levitation’s cancellation forced a last-minute scramble to place acts in clubs, the Arcs still delivered a nearly 90-minute, festival-worthy set. L.A. quartets La Luz and Chicano Batman paved the way as openers, with the former’s hazy psych-surf riffs and the latter’s contorted and cathartic soul grooves serving as appropriate aesthetic accomplices.
Though the threatened rain never fell, the Arcs brought their own storm down on the sold-out house. Dual drummers Richard Swift and Homer Steinweiss set up sidestage and thundered a tight percussive barrage following the quintet’s soulful intro to “Velvet Ditch.” “Bad Girl” and “Keep on Dreaming” unleashed Auerbach on guitar, and “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” rousted the crowd to sing along.
Mariachi Flor de Toloache emerged for “Pistol Made of Bones,” the female trio inflecting a Latin groove. Their swelling background choruses bolstered the slow sway of “Stay in My Corner” and seared “Chains of Love.” Then the band dipped into covers of the Temptations’ “Smiling Faces Sometimes” and the Blue Rondos’ “Little Baby.”
“The Arc” settled into grittier licks as Auerbach continued to bound uncharacteristically around the stage during “Cold Companion” and “Maybe I’m the Only One for Me.” Closing with the powerhouse blast of “Outta My Mind,” the song’s emphasis on breaking free – even from the constraints of success – felt like a statement, one that carried throughout the set.
Auerbach contends that the Arcs release him from the Keys’ radio and arena anthems. His energy in fronting the band, and digging deep into covers like the encore’s “I Wanna Holler” from Gary Bonds, proved as much, showcasing an artist rejuvenated.