Saturday, October 2
The Akron boys kicked off their set aiming to please their minimalist fans -- myself>"/>
The Akron boys kicked off their set aiming to please their minimalist fans -- myself included -- by playing their first songs without a backing band, just the two Black Keys. Such songs included earlier numbers from their five pre-Brothers records, like "The Flame" and the shredding "Busted," songs that are raucous enough for the boys and sexy enough for the girls. I've been thinking a lot lately about the current trend of "orchestral pop," and the amount of pure rock-and-roll energy and soul the Black Keys -- two men alone -- can infuse into their stage show really puts overstuffed band in said "chamber/orchestral" genre to shame. The Keys' performance, simply enough, is centered on Dan Auerbach's vocals -- beautifully, painfully bluesy, I'm not convinced another frontman's had this much hard-rocking, remarkable soul in his voice since Robert Plant -- and the duo's frequent instrumental interludes. Auerbach obviously loves the guitar and the plenitude of wailing sounds he can evoke from it -- by my count, he played at least three different guitars -- and Patrick Carney's drumming riotously offsets his partner's vitality. Shortly into the set, Auerbach announced,
For the fuller songs off their latest record, the masterful Brothers, Auerbach and Carney brought out a backing keyboardist and bassist. (The brotherly theme was exemplified by the huge backdrop of two fists joined together on a colorful banner). If the first half of their set was all swamp soul, the Brothers half was infused with elements of psychedelia, down to the enormous sparkling disco ball that popped out of the stage floor. Auerbach sang the entirety of "Everlasting Light" in an effortless falsetto, "Next Girl" was stomping and uncompromising, and the spiraling guitar riff on the squealing "She's Long Gone" was flat out wicked. Other highlights included "Tighten Up," which Auerbach did introduce with a wobbly whistle, and my dog James' favorite song, the anthemic "Howlin' For You." The songs were sensual and shit-kicking all at once.
The Keys ended their set with three more oldies, The Big Come Up's "I'll Be Your Man," and Attack & Release's "Strange Times" and "I Got Mine," during which the curtain dropped to reveal BLACK KEYS spelled out in blinking white Christmas lights (seriously, whoever designed their set is awesome). They returned for an encore of two songs -- one with the bassist and keyboardist, the chugging "Sinister Kid," ("that's me, that's me, the devil won't let me be"), and then Magic Potion's "Your Touch," which needed no more than the two of them to be unforgettably fiery and explosive.
The crowd: Sold out and floating in clouds of fragrant smoke.
Overheard in the crowd: "I love that two guys make that much sound." Right?
Random notebook dump: However rocking their music is, the Black Keys are two gracious dudes. Auerbach effusively thanked the audience multiple times, and Carney ended the show by tossing about eight of his drumsticks into the souvenir-hungry crowd.