Singer-Guitarist Dan Auerbach Makes a Triumphant Return to the Agora

Much like rival Jack White, singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach has evolved from the days when he fronted a noisy duo (in Auerbach's case, the Akron garage blues act the Black Keys). Auerbach first expanded his musical range with 2009’s solo effort, Keep It Hid, and then transformed again with the Arcs a couple of years ago.

His latest solo effort, last year’s Waiting on a Song, represents yet another phase as Auerbach recruited noteworthy session players such as drummer Gene Chrisman (Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin), keyboardist Bobby Wood (Presley, Dusty Springfield), pedal-steel guitarist Russ Paul (Elton John, Leon Russell) and bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Sturgill Simpson) to play on the album and accompany him on the tour that came to the Agora last night.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

The nearly two-hour show in front of a capacity crowd represented Auerbach’s triumphant return to a venue where he had previously played a sold-out two-night stand with the Black Keys (who were famously stiffed by a promoter who’s no longer affiliated with the club) as the Keys made their transition from club act to arena rockers.

It should be noted that the Agora has been spruced up quite a bit since then.

Auerbach began the twentysomething set song with a low-key rendition of “Waiting on a Song.” The set's first few songs kept things on the mellow side. "Livin' in Sin" sounded particularly somber, and with its dark tones and spoken vocals, “King of a One Horse Town” had a Velvet Underground vibe.

Auerbach invited Shannon Shaw, a member of the opening act Shannon and the Clams, to take over lead vocals and sing a couple of her solo tunes. Both tracks had a '60s, Nancy Sinatra-inspired feel to them, and the band effectively slipped into a mellow groove for her performance.

Things livened up when Robert Finley, an enthusiastic blind blues singer, arrived on stage to deliver several of his tunes with the support of the band. The exuberant singer, who looked sharp in a sequined black Western jacket and a black cowboy hat, was so animated, he nearly knocked his hat off as he sang.

He continued to kill it as he delivered two more songs before giving the microphone back to Auerbach, whom he called the "million dollar man" for giving his career a boost.

Auerbach revisited Keep It Hid with “Trouble Weighs a Ton,” a pretty ballad that featured crisp guitar riffs and harmony vocals. The mellow blues number “Undertow” sounded particularly atmospheric and might've come off as a little too low-key, but Auerbach effectively picked the pace back up for a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Don’t Go To Strangers.”

The catchy, uptempo “Shine on Me” brought the set to a close. Finley would return to deliver two spirited songs during the encore. He then gave the stage over to Auerbach, who closed the show with an acoustic rendition of “Goin’ Home,” a song he said he wrote “a long time ago” on a Black Keys tour.

The concert showed yet another side of Auerbach, and suggests his ability to constantly expand his musical range remains unparalleled.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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