The Black Keys | Arctic Monkeys April 27, 2012 Chaifetz Arena
There was a nice moment in the middle of the Black Keys' impressive concert last night when guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach sent hired guns Gus Seyffert and John Wood away so he could play alone with drummer Patrick Carney. It was a nod to the group's roots as a duo that got everything out of shit-kicking blues-rock that two guys could get. This four-song excursion threw a bone to old-school Keys fans with selections from the group's pre-Danger Mouse era and highlighted how effective the duo is at crafting and delivering simple, catchy fist-pumping rock. They even proved they could improvise with a jam at the end of "Girl is On My Mind." But when the full-band rejoined Auerbach and Carney for the slow-building "Black Submarines," it was clear that the move to an expanded lineup and instrumental palette was the right one. The keyboard, bass and second guitar lines fill out the group's sound, add atmospheric touches the songs and overall just make the Black Keys a better, more diverse band.
But really, both versions of The Black Keys were on their A-game for their show at Chaifetz Arena. Auerbach's voice loses a small bit of luster removed from the studio, but the man's pipes are no joke. He also conjures up tones fat enough to prove that the group wasn't messing around when it named one of its albums "Thickfreakness." Carney, meanwhile is as dependable and uncluttered of a drummer as you can get. Everything but his bass drum should have been slightly louder, but from the way he viciously pounded the drums, the problem was likely in the mix. Seyffert and Wood acquitted themselves nicely by providing a solid canvas for Auerbach to paint his bitchin' leads over and by chiming in with the little parts that often make the songs. The irresistible shuffling stomp and organ grind of "Gold on the Ceiling" proved to be an obvious highlight, as did the whistling in "Tighten Up." But the non-singles also went over well. "Nova Baby" worked as a great bubblegum break from all the dirty blues, and "Ten Cent Pistol" showed that the Keys is also capable of subdued grooves. And when it came time to muscle up, The Black Keys made good with a punchy attack.
A series of stupid decisions caused me to miss a decent chunk of Arctic Monkeys' opening set (I arrived during "Don't Sit Down Cause I Moved Your Chair"). But from what I saw, the quartet was firing on all cylinders with a performance that drew pretty evenly from their four albums and numerous singles. The band locked in tight for its earlier Franz Ferdinand/Strokes-indebted dance rock and cut loose on its newer, heavier psychedelic material. The group lacked the immersive video screens, disco balls and the other bells and whistles of the headliner, but made up for it with an energetic stage presence and chemistry.
Personal bias: I've been a casual fan of The Black Keys since I heard "Thickfreakness" on Punk-O-Rama 8, of all things. I'm a bigger fan of Arctic Monkeys, who have pushed its sound in many enjoyable directions throughout their existence.
Overheard: "Let's go Blues!" - One of the funnier chants from a fan between the main set and the encore.
Oversmelled: Lots of weed.
The Black Keys setlist:
Howlin' for You Next Girl Run Right Back Same Old Thing Dead and Gone Gold on the Ceiling
(Auerbach and Carney only) Thickfreakness Girl is on my mind I'll be your man Your touch
(Full band) Little black submarines Money maker Strange Times Nova baby Ten Cent Pistol Tighten up Lonely boy
Encore: Everlasting light (Auerbach and Carney only) I got mine