The Black Keys
November 6, 2014
Few would have predicted 10 years ago while on an indie label and on third album that The Black Keys were destined for a life in the mid-level garage scene instead of headlining their second arena tour in the States. But the success the Akron-bred duo are basking in has been completely earned. After years of grinding on the road, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have rightfully taken their place near the top of what's left of the arena-rock scrapheap.
There were moments last night where it would have been easy to get caught up the experimental confidence of the Keys' stage show. For longtime fans, subtle tweaks to the songs demonstrates not necessarily a sense of exploration, but it's a confident move by a band showing their prowess. Unlike other sludgy garage bands, the duo have pushed their sound from that to the mainstream, even if that means upsetting their status quo. The risks the Keys have taken have turned them into a huge success.
Outside of the album, the duo have individually stayed in the headlines. Carney's freewheeling Twitter feed has turned eyes his way, while Auerbach is as known for his personal beef with Jack White as he is one the most reliable producers in the Nashville scene they now share. Yet, when the duo remove the outside noise and focus on their music, there are fewer bands who are able to do what they do.
The group's eighth record, Turn Blue, was easily their most experimental. On the heels of massive hits with Brothers and El Camino, the conservative play would have been to churn out another radio friendly hit that would cement them as rock radio staples. Instead, this record leaned towards psych rock and soul, and despite the record's moodiness on top of a venue like The Forum, the song found it easy to translate in this setting.
For the first time, the Keys utilized four band members for an entire show. The addition of keyboardist John Wood and bassist/vocalist Richard Swift filled out the sound and lifting the restrictions that came with being primarily a two-piece. Wood and Swift's additional elements took the pressure off Auerbach and Carney and the result was a bigger, more expansive sound that shined notably on a cover Edwin Collins' "A Girl Like You" and "Run Right Back."
Although Turn Blue hasn't sold as well its predecessors, the songs played from the record were the night's highlights, not much of the musicianship, but the nice change of pace they provided.
Now in the middle of their second decade together, the Keys are becoming comfortable in their arena-rock skin. They've embraced their status both as performers and willingly accepting the largeness of their sound. Between his name checking the city, Auerbach showed off his slick new moves with his guitar carried himself with swagger throughout the night. Contrarily, Carney's lunch pale style of drumming provided the foundation and provided a link the band's bluesy past.
By the time, the duo returned to the cameraphone-laden sky, they gave the near-capacity crowd what they wanted. For a band that's evolved as much as the Keys have in 13 years, it's exciting to know that complacency hasn't set in and that their future is still very much wide open.
The Crowd: Impressive sea of camera phones was surprising. Well done.
Set list below:
Dead and Gone
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Gold on the Ceiling
Too Afraid to Love You
Howlin' for You
A Girl Like You (Edwyn Collins cover)
Gotta Get Away
She's Long Gone
Weight of Love
Little Black Submarines