Page 23

Tips: Click on articles from page
Page 23 277 views, 0 comment Write your comment | Print | Download

There’s an angle to the origin story of the Black Keys’ name, the one about the schizophrenic artist back home with an unconventional way of calling someone duplicitous, that’s often overlooked. Consider the black keys on the piano, those of two names but with one sound as the most empathetic music: the pentatonic scale, the essence and the pathos of black spirituals and the blues.

It’s where the best music comes from, and on Saturday night at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte for the sold-out, final stop on their first ever arena tour, the name has rarely been more appropriate. The bill for this tour was like something straight out of the Golden Age of Rock: the impetuous, style-conscious Arctic Monkeys from England supporting the austere, blue-collar Ohioans.

Neither really reinvents their root sound — a reminder that rock in its purest sense has long since reached its final stage of evolution — but with enough charisma and guts to overlook the occasional riff recycling. This tour, however, was the Black Keys’ reward for a decade of dogged adherence to simply making good rock and roll. The Black Keys, guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, took the stage to the menacing theme of GZA’s Liquid Swords (or Willie Mitchell’s “Groovin’” if you’re old school), choosing to relinquish any pleasantries with the capacity crowd. “Let’s get it started,” Auerbach stated rather dispassionately, but the duo’s collective crunch was anything but.

The knotty guitar reverb of the studio version of opener “Howlin’ for You” was pared away, revealing taut songcraft set against beat machine Carney’s Hammer-of-the-Gods rhythms. The band’s 90-minute set was not surprisingly heavy on El Camino tracks, their multi-platinum 2011 release, but the ancillary focus on its immediate precursor Brothers suggested the band was in no small way playing for a crowd that wasn’t aware of them until Warner Brothers’ licensing bonanza of 2010.

Absent from the set entirely was their awesomely primitive album Thickfreakness, though a passing reference was made to the mediocre Magic Potion with the pedestrian “Your Touch.” Likewise with Rubber Factory, where the gutbucket romp “Girl is On My Mind” ruled mid-set. That said, the El Camino material is tremendous live. No shocker that it’s their biggest hit; the album is a melting pot of contemporary rock influence.

The duo have always been skilled appropriators, here bandying about arena-sized glam rock with “Gold On the Ceiling” and trashy grooves like “Money Maker.” It’s a record built for dancing, and no one in the building seemed to need any prodding in that regard. It’s 100 percent delicious devil’s music, something to which anyone who scored the amazing silkscreen tour poster by Emek (and isn’t hawking on eBay for currently around $200) can identify.

There are obvious benefits for the Black Keys from such a successful tour. First, they’re made men. They might as well be the last pure rock, and especially blues-based band, to reach headliner status for a long, long time. Barring an intra-band catastrophe, they’re not going to retreat from this level.

Secondly, they never have to do this tour again. The show felt relatively short for a headliner, but given the ferocity with which Carney pummels his kit, there’s a chance it’s prescribed that way. What made it feel that way though was the endless anticipation for particular songs that never arrived. “Hard Row” or their cover of “Have Love Will Travel” would’ve scratched that itch, while the repetitive “Chop and Change from the Twilight soundtrack could have been ousted without worry.

But if history is any indication with the Black Keys, they will always be from where some of the best music comes.

See also