For a duo, The Black Keys are making a lot of noise in their first arena tour. Guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, who will perform 9 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at Ovation Hall at Revel in Atlantic City, have deftly completed their decade-long transition from club act to one that's now comfortable on the big stage.
The concert will be the second public show at Revel's Ovation Hall, which debuts with Maroon 5 on Friday, May 18.
Rolling Stone has called the twosome's current outing, "their biggest, baddest tour ever," a sentiment backed by Vancouver Sun critic Francois Marchand.
"The Keys left no doubt in anyone's mind that they were arena-worthy headliners," Marchand writes of a May 9 performance at Rogers Arena.
"The Keys ... were a mix of swampy swagger, blues-rock fuzz and '60s pop vibes, the kind of stuff that's just tailor-made for hip-shaking and floor-stomping."
Touring behind last year's "El Camino," Auerbach and Carney brought in bassist Gus Seyffert and guitarist/keyboardist John Wood for some of the tracks, notably "Run Right Back" and "Gold On the Ceiling."
However, some of the best moments during the show, which focuses on breakout albums "El Camino" and 2010's "Brothers," came when Auerbach and Carney returned to their "old school garage-blues two-piece format," Marchand writes
"They felt most carefree when they got back to their roots to hammer out stompers 'Thickfreakness,' 'Girl Is On My Mind' and show-stopper 'Your Touch,' for which the arena went completely nuts."
The duo's approach to stagecraft is as spare as many of its blues-rock licks, says Ryan White of The Oregonian.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirts, the two had "about the minimum amount of big-budget visuals you can get away with in a basketball arena," White writes of a May 7 show in Portland, Ore.
"A few fancy light tricks, a little video - much of that sparse black and white footage - a couple of disco balls and a fancy, illuminating 'The Black Keys' sign that dropped at the end of the night's final tune. That's it, and it worked."
Too many bells and whistles perhaps would dilute the focus.
"It was mostly business and little banter, Auerbach punctuating the set with a 'Here's a new one' or 'Here's an old one,' letting his guitar and Carney's drums do the real talking," Marchand writes.
"No frills ... and no gimmicks: Sometimes that's about as enormous and rock 'n' roll as you can get."