The Black Keys have been touring "El Camino" since January 2012 with cool openers all along the way, including Arctic Monkeys, Divine Fits and Tame Impala.
There has been nothing as far out there as The Flaming Lips, who've jumped on board for a four-show run. The opening night was Sunday in Kansas City, of which Lips member Steven Drozd told the Post-Gazette, "It was the Black Keys' crowd, but I was surprised by how open-minded the crowd did receive us. We didn't get booed."
Flaming Lips set
Look...The Sun Is Rising
Silver Trembling Hands
Try to Explain
One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21
Do You Realize?
Always There, In Our Hearts
Flaming Lips got the same cordial treatment in Pittsburgh Tuesday at a sold-out Consol Energy Center. The Oklahoma City band has mothballed its balloons-confetti-spaceball props for a dark, sci-fi treatment of its bleak new album "The Terror."
Frontman Wayne Coyne was raised on a center podium cradling a baby doll attached to long tentacles that shot sparkling lights the width of the stage. It was like an alien invasion on Penguins ice. It was that weird, and that dazzling.
The band's first trick was to turn a song called "Look ... The Sun is Rising" into something filled with noise and dread, and that carried through into pulsing, flashing electronic rock of "The Terror."
"The promoter wanted me to say," Mr. Coyne joked, pointing to the top rows with his spotlight, "that the ventilation is so good up there, you're allowed to smoke pot tonight."
This set didn't seem to require any extra mind-altering substances.
The Lips strayed from "Terror" with psych-rocker "The W.A.N.D.," a chaotic and messianic cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" and a few melodic pieces of "Yoshimi," both a challenge to sing: the symphonic "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" and the popular "Do You Realize?," the perfect mix of love and terror.
They signed off with the throbbing "Always There, In Our Hearts," the place where post-punk meets Pink Floyd.
Black Keys set
Howlin' for You
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Dead and Gone
Gold on the Ceiling
Girl Is on My Mind
Little Black Submarines
Ten Cent Pistol
She's Long Gone
I Got Mine
Other than traveling in similar indie circles, The Black Keys are a whole different trip with their sonic garage blues -- the last thing you'd think would be popular in 2013.
They arrived on a stage with vintage equipment designed to look like a stripped-down '70s show, at the old arena, except for the giant screen. "We're gonna keep it moving," frontman Dan Auerbach said repeatedly, and that's what they did, opening with "Howlin' For You" and keeping the hammer down through such raw blues-rockers as "Next Girl," "Run Right Back" and "Same Old Thing."
The Akron duo of singer-guitarist Auerbach and drum-pounding sidekick Patrick Carney (who will never be confused with Neil Peart) came out as a foursome with bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist/guitarist John Wood, who gave "Gold on the Ceiling" some extra gilding.
They sent them away for a handful of songs including slow grind "Girl is on My Mind" and early favorite "Thickfreakness," one of the best demonstrations of Mr. Auerbach's guitar tone, which sounds at times like a monster truck trying to get out of a tar pit.
Smack in the middle was "Little Black Submarines," taking a page from Jack White by luring you in with a ballad and kicking the tempo hard.
One knock on The Black Keys is the lack of variety to the set, and it did start to blend together after an hour. Fifteen more minutes of Flaming Lips and 15 less Black Keys (putting each at 75) would have been ideal, but it is undoubtedly the Keys' crowd, thanks in part to the singles that climaxed the set: the slyly grooving "Tighten Up" and "Lonely Boy," one of the better straight-up rock 'n' roll songs of the past few years.
First encore "Everlasting Light" changed the vibe with a high falsetto vocal and mirror ball of color while an extended "I Got Mine" was a final declaration of their hard sludge footprint.
Most of the acts that are able to headline Consol are either from another era (Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi) or from the pop charts (Justin Bieber, Usher). It's refreshing to see a pair of bands who were playing clubs just a few years ago come in and do some damage.mobilehome - musicreviews
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: scottmervis_pg. First Published May 1, 2013 3:30 AM