Over Canalside’s annual course of free Thursday night summer concerts, there are some to attend for the music, others to attend for the ambience, and the select few that merge both to reveal a Buffalo few outside the city would believe exists.
File Thursday night’s Dan Auerbach-led Arcs performance in the latter category. Backed by waterfront breezes while wailing their face-melting brand of soulful rock, fuzz and fury aside a red-hued Queen City sunset, the collaborative quintet helped orchestrate one of the season’s most complete live compositions.
For Black Keys’ frontman Auerbach, the Arcs provide yet another deviation from his amplified, Akron, Ohio, neo-blues duo with drummer Pat Carney.
But just like he’s previously proved on incendiary work with Dr. John, Jessica Lea Mayfield and his 2009 solo release “Keep It Hid,” much of Auerbach’s best work has eased out while on sojourns away from the Keys.
That act has earned acceptance from safely rebelling teens, casual rock fans or those who bought “The Big Come Up” before its tracks were featured on HBO’s “Hung.” With the Arcs, there’s mystery and intrigue.
There’s the chance for Auerbach to team with an all-female mariachi band – opener Mariachi Flor de Tolache – and talented musicians/producers like Leon Michels, Richard Swift, Homer Steinweiss and Nick Movshon, guys who’ve lived in studios and are keen on expanding sounds.
And there’s the opportunity to take their experiment on the road, perform for the people and, at times, sonically explode aside illuminated poets and grain elevators.
On Thursday night, those lucky enough to attend were treated to Auerbach and Co.’s creation, live and liberated in the shadow of the Skyway.
Wasting no time on easing attendees into the evening, double drum kits – manned by Steinweiss and multi-instrumentalist Swift – amplified opener “Velvet Ditch” as the trio of Moyshon (bass), Michels (sax, keys) and Auerbach escorted its remnants into the psychedelic twofer of “Bad Girl” and “Keep on Dreamin’.”
Bearded and clad in dark shades, Auerbach played conductor from tune to tune, wielding his red Gibson to weave together the night’s set with a series of inflective solos or string-assisted accents, as was the case with early-night favorite “Put a Flower in Your Pocket.”
Alongside the sturdy work of bassist Moyshon, Auerbach’s picking on the track replicated the cadence of cat burglar steps before a deluge of fuzz, keys and backbeat stormed the song forward – and eventually helped blow the second of two Canalside banners off the stage set.
Was this advertising malfunction assisted by Buffalo River gusts? Sure, but such dramatic breezes merely accentuated the rest of the show, with members of Mariachi Flor de Tolache backing up windswept versions of “Stay in My Corner,” “Chains of Love” and Temptations cover “Smiling Faces Sometimes” and Auerbach flying free on “The Arc” and a killer encore version of Gary U.S. Bonds’ “I Wanna Holler.”
Starting the night was the aforementioned Latin Grammy-nominated Mariachi Flor de Tolache.
The caterwauling New York four-piece turned in one of the summer’s most unique and beautiful performances – as well as the season’s only mariachi cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.”
Before this gorgeous display, very early arrivals got a taste of Buffalo’s Tim Britt Band. The local quartet’s set was highlighted by the guitar-fueled “25 Going on Five” and an entertaining, albeit loose replica of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”