I watched Black Keys rock Manchester's new Co-op Live arena and one thing proved to be a major highlight

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Ohio’s finest had at one stage been set to open the venue.

Grammy-awarding rock duo The Black Keys were at their imperious best at the Co-op Live arena as Manchester’s new venue tasted blues music for the first time. 

Ohio’s finest were at one stage going to be the first band to perform at the venue, but following a series of delays their performance in Manchester instead served as the finale of their European tour in support of their ‘Ohio Players’ record. 

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However, despite the almost three-week delay and missing out on the title of being the first band to perform in Manchester’s new state-of-the-art venue, the pair were full of life and energy and produced a riveting performance that was well-worth the wait. 

The Black Keys on stage at Co-op Live. Picture: Nick FlynnThe Black Keys on stage at Co-op Live. Picture: Nick Flynn
The Black Keys on stage at Co-op Live. Picture: Nick Flynn

The quality of the sound inside the auditorium proved to be a major highlight. Co-op Live bosses have repeatedly raved about the quality of the sound system, the arena’s acoustics and its innovative design, but needless to say it has lived up to the hype and more. Despite sitting in the exclusive AMP Club at the opposite end of the arena, there was a sense of sharpness to the sound which made hearing Dan Auerbach’s riveting solos and bluesy riffs even more delightful. 

Perhaps even more impressive than the superb sound system is the band’s willingness to evolve and diversify over the years. The days of Auerbach and Patrick Carney employing a minimalistic set-up on stage are long gone, with four other musicians joining the pair on stage and a wealth of screens behind them capturing every single detail. 

Following the band’s four-year hiatus from 2015 to 2019, they have churned out four albums in the last six years and performed a few of their newest hits from the pop-esque ‘Ohio Players’ including ‘This Is Nowhere’, ‘Beautiful People (Stay High)’ and fittingly ‘Only Love Matters’ and  ‘On The Game’. 

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The latter two have a Mancunian flavour to them having been co-written with Noel Gallagher. Unfortunately, Gallagher failed to reprise his guest appearances from the pair’s three shows at the Brixton Academy last week, but it mattered not as the Black Keys showcased exactly what makes them one of the best blues bands on the planet. 

After an impressive opening set by four-piece indie rock band Circa Waves, the Black Keys came out of the blocks on fire as they belted out hits such as ‘I Got Mine’ and the crowd-pleasing ‘Gold on the Ceiling’ that kickstarted a singalong in the crowd. The pair kept the momentum going with the bluesy ‘Your Touch’, the extremely popular ‘Tighten Up’ and a cover of Richard Berry’s ‘Have Love Will Travel’ in quick succession. 

However, one low point of the evening was the atmosphere inside the arena. A factor could be possibly attributed to the day of the week and the fact the Co-Op Live handed out a number of complimentary tickets for the event after the chaos of the Rick Astley test event. 

Nevertheless, it wasn’t subdued all night. Auerbach brought the crowd to life during the middle of the set as he belted out ‘Lo/Hi’ and ‘Howlin’ For You’ with the audience in unison and once again in the encore when ‘Little Black Submarines’ and ‘Lonely Boy’ were sung in full voice. 

Despite the lack of energy and atmosphere at times, the Keys were infectious, energetic and although the band may have been together for over two decades they are clearly ageing like a fine wine. 

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