While the Black Keys show at the Beachland Tavern wasn’t exactly a “secret” show, as it was advertised by the social networking giant, Myspace, it was certainly a special show. Fans had lined up outside the Beachland as early as 8 AM Wednesday morning in hope of securing a wristband for this exclusive event with hundreds being turned away. The Black Keys would have had no problem filling the Ballroom, and they would have had no problem filling a much larger venue like The Agora. Yet, they chose the Tavern, with its capacity under 200 people, to treat their fans to a rare intimate performance at the scene of their very first show.

Fittingly, the Akron duo of guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney, began their set with “Same Old Thing,” Although it’s from their latest offering, the Danger Mouse produced Attack and Release, the title can be read as a mission statement for a band with a strong admiration for the blues masters of bygone days, and who have pounded out one top jam after another for the past 7 years. Surprisingly, on their new album, “Same Old Thing,” is anything but the same old thing, as a flute loop dances around Auerbach and Carney’s two man blues explosion. Live, however, it was stripped back down to Auerbach blazing big riffs on his guitar and Carney pounding heavy rhythms on the kit.

With the remainder of their early set focused on the back catalog, and signature jams like “Girl is on My Mind,” “Set You Free,” and “Your Touch,” you could feel the Tavern’s floor shake. While it could have been the raucous fans in the front row, throbbing with excitement, stomping their feet, bobbing their heads, and thrusting their fists into the air, who were responsible for all the shakin’ going down, I’d like to think it was from the sheer strength with which the lanky Carney assaulted his kit. There isn’t a heavier hitter in Rock ‘N’ Roll, and if anyone can generate enough force to shift the foundation of a building, it’s surely him.

Later in their set, the Keys would draw heavily from Attack and Release. A hometown show provided them with a great opportunity to trot out some guest musicians and present songs like “Strange Times,” “Oceans and Streams,” “Psychotic Girl” and “I’ve Got Mine” as they were recorded for Attack and Release, yet, they opted to arrange them in their traditional stripped down manner. For the most part, the moodier passages that featured an organ, and other assorted bleeps, sweeps, and creeps on album, were replaced by guitar solos in this live setting. While not a bad trade off (an Auerbach solo is no ordinary solo), and I understand why they’d keep things to guitar and drums for their hometown throwdown, one is left to wonder how much more special, this secret show could have been.

I pondered this question as Auerbach and Carney left the stage for a quick break, but after a fierce, sweaty encore of “The Breaks” from their debut release, The Big Come Up, and “Til I Get My Way” from 2004’s Rubber Factory, I decided I wouldn’t have wanted this show any other way: a packed crowd in a small venue, blistering, bluesy rust belt Rock ‘N’ Roll rattling the walls, and two local boys done good. Does it get any more special than that?

Cleveland’s Black Girls were the handpicked openers for the show. For black girls, they certainly played like four white dudes with guitars from Brooklyn. A bit Strokes-y at times, and other times they sounded positively like The Walkmen. Still, not bad for a band barely a year old, and with a couple solid jams (check out “Sleep a Year” currently available for download on Myspace), and a warm reception from the crowd, they certainly made the most of this great opportunity handed to them by The Black Keys.

Black Keys Set List:
1. Same Old Thing
2. Girl Is On My Mind
3. Set Your Free
4. Your Touch
5. Thickfreakness
6. Stack Shot Billy
7. Busted
8. You’re the One
9. Strange Times
10. 10 A.M. Automatic
11. I’m Glad
12. Oceans and Streams
13. Psychotic Girl
14. Remember When (Side B)
15. I’ve Got Mine

16. The Breaks
17. ‘Til I Get My Way