I swear Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney must have been down on their luck years ago and wound up making some crossroads deal with the devil himself. Sure, its great now, but us fans are screwed when Satan comes to snatch those two away. In the meantime, I’m lusting over their latest effort Brothers, arguably the band’s finest work to date, whose all-encompassing mix of body shaking grunge blues has just enough dark jukebox mojo and soul to make it unforgettable. It’s clear The Black Keys are a band willing to sprout huge fucking wings and fly far but they don’t forget to fly back to their nest every now and then to visit their roots. Auerbach is a laid-back freak on his guitar whose ability to dig down real deep and twist and bend notes leaves your jaw on the floor. Carney is as steady on drums as anyone and his timing and intensity feeds off of Auerbach’s gifted touch. But, some of the best reasons to see The Black Keys live now are no longer the songs that had made them famous.
The show at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing was perhaps the first time I have seen a crowd so hungry for a band’s new material. Even though the setlists haven’t varied at all during this tour, the Keys have acquired a few new bandmates with bassist Nick Movshon and keyboardist Leon Michels. Obviously, the new players help round out duo’s sound, but they also add more than just some extra instruments to the stage. In an interview on 330.com Auerbach describes the addition of the pair to their lineup as being “like four diamonds with lightning bolts coming out of them.”
This analogy sounds wild, but in action in Philadelphia it made perfect sense as this new quad played some insane takes of the Brothers’ tracks Next Girl and Ten Cent Pistol. Plus, we got some fresh reworkings of several new songs like the turtle-slow build on Everlasting Light changed from the album version’s consistent pace and a devastatingly funky take on Sinister Kid that made for some of the most ferocious crowd participation during the encore. I’d say that Movshon’s bass playing was a tad overshadowed because Carney and Auerbach have gotten so damn good at covering all of the low, high and in between. However, the drums can’t produce those shrill high pitched tones like that vintage Italian Farfisa Organ onstage, making Michels’ finger work during the intro to Next Girl and Everlasting Light glow with a brightness that has me seeing massive potential.
The excitement generated by Brothers gives the Keys plenty of space to roll around, plus Leon Michels channeling The Zombies’ Rod Argent mixed with some Spooner Oldham suggests that they have moved into a new phase. The backdrop of the two hands clasped inside a tire show that they will go at it together stronger then they have ever been and ready to take on the world. (words and photos: Jake Krolick)
Setlist: Thickfreakness, Girl Is on My Mind, 10 A.M. Automatic, The Breaks, Stack Shot Billy, Busted, Everywhere I Go, Strange Times, Same Old Thing, Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Chop and Change, Howlin’ for You, Tighten Up, She’s Long Gone, Ten Cent Pistol, Your Touch, I Got Mine. E: Too Afraid to Love You, Sinister Kid, Till I Get My Way