The Black Keys

BlackKeys-March14For just two men, The Black Keys sure can get a 20,000-strong crowd to its feet.

Let’s start with the fact that the Akron, Ohio-based duo (consisting of Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals, and Patrick Carney on drums) have been around for over a decade. They’ve released seven (yes, seven!) records, but really only burst onto the international scene with their 2010 effort, Brothers. Their highly-anticipated record, El Camino, released last year, did not disappoint.

So going into the ACC on Wednesday night to catch the boys in action, I was a little concerned. I’ve had a good listen to most of their stuff, but would I be left in the dark, assuming this song or that is from an earlier album?

No, I would not. The Keys know what’s up. They kept their vintage music to a minimum (but enough to hook the n00bs and satisfy the long-time fans).

The band’s ‘Howlin’ For You’ opened the show with a punch, and ‘Next Girl’ and ‘Run Right Back’ kept things moving nicely. The Keys slowed things down with ‘I’ll Be Your Man’, and followed that with ‘Strange Times’ (“An oldie, but a goodie,” Auerbach said.)

But as a worry-wort, I had other concerns. The Keys – which tour with Gus Seyffert on bass and John Wood on keys – are only two people (okay, four in total. But still. . . .). Is there going to be enough going on?

And again, I was happily surprised. The visual aspect of the show was perfect: interesting, but not distracting; relevant, but still unexpected. Whether a series of colourful graphics, or a scruffy black and white film strip; seemingly home-made videos of houses and roads and fences, or live, stylized projections of Carney and Auerbach, the screens lit up with something for most songs. And when the screens were still, the spectacular light show added a last little blast to the performance that the Keys hardly need.

Of the duo themselves, I have this to say: Auerbach is a guitarist to make other guitarists jealous. He knows his way around a fretboard better than most, and you can that he knows what he’s doing. He’s not as showy as other performers, but you just need to close your eyes and listen to realize that he doesn’t need to be.

Carney, meanwhile, is a madman. He is whipping his sticks around like crazy behind his kit (so crazy that he breaks his kickstand, which is replaced mid-song by the impressive stage-hand, though Carney doesn’t stop ever playing. . . impressive, indeed). The drum lines are integral to the Keys’ blues-rock sound, and Carney obviously knows that.

Overall, no one can deny the Keys’ sheer musicianship. They know music, no question. But they’ve got that passion that takes it from down there to way up here, leaving you with nothing short of a band that is completely deserving of every ounce of success they get.

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