Words by: Matt Draper | Images by: Veronica Vaillancourt
The Black Keys :: 05.15.08 :: Terminal 5 :: New York, NY
You can take the band out of the garage, but you can't take the garage out of the band. At least not when it comes to the raw blues-rock of The Black Keys, who stormed into New York's Terminal 5 in support of their latest album, Attack & Release.
The Keys, comprised of guitarist-vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, recently cut the significantly more varied Attack with genre-defying producer Danger Mouse. However, the handful of new tunes they performed this night immediately soaked into the blues/jam/rock fabric they've made their own. They stayed true to form at Terminal 5, treating the sold-out crowd to an onslaught of garage-rock revival that moved from rapid-fire blues with sweat-soaked solos to soaring ballads featuring intricate drumming.
Matching the Keys' throwback sound was the venue. In addition to looking like a contemporary three-story garage (if garages had leather couches and flat-screen TVs), the venue provided a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling silver streamers and a smoke machine spewing intermittent clouds around the Akron, Ohio-based duo.
Following opening act Buffalo Killers, the Keys took the stage and hit the ground running with "Girl Is On My Mind" before letting loose on "Set You Free," with Carney pummeling the drums while Auerbach, head thrashing and hair already plastered to his face with sweat, roared and repeated the final chorus.
"Thickfreakness," one of the band's early meat and potatoes tunes, followed next and quickly lit-up the crowd. Auerbach made his way to the side of the stage before working his slide up the neck of the guitar to simulate the song's engine-revving intro, which smashed into a southern-style blues riff. The Keys, just three songs in, were already dialed-in and the crowd summoned appreciative applause during the tempo changes.
After roaring through another crowd favorite, "10 a.m. Automatic," the Keys tackled "Same Old Thing," a song off Attack that proved more than worthy as the 3,000-plus heads in the crowd, while maybe not familiar with the track, held onto each note. As Auerbach chanted the "same old thing" chorus alongside Carney's crashing cymbals, he certainly wasn't making a nod to the Keys' sound and appearance, both of which have grown - literally, in the case of Auerbach's hair and beard - since the band's inception.
Patrick Carney - The Black Keys :: 05.15
The Keys next moved into Rubber Factory's "Stack Shot Billy," with Auerbach steering the song using a ripping guitar introduction to coincide with Carney's lanky frame deftly hammering on the drums.
With the Keys riding momentum (and the crowd building its booze buzz), the highlight of the night followed with a hair-down version of "Busted" off The Big Come Up. A pure blues-tinged rocker, the Keys shattered the song from the get go, building tension while sending the crowd into a dizzying harmony of claps that rose and exploded into Auerbach's guitar solo. Just as the tune appeared over, it kept going, climbing higher and higher as Carney carried the torch with rapid-fire drumming to another crashing climax. The build up and finish was truly cathartic, and, with Carney's smashed sticks scattered on the ground, Auerbach hocked a giant loogey toward the back of the stage to put a fitting end to the song.
"You're the One," a silky ballad off the band's previous album, Magic Potion, provided a release after the madness. The song began with Auerbach, backed by a sea of audience harmonies, displaying a soulful voice; quite the departure from his earlier roaring. Set to Carney's delicate snare tapping, it melted into a soaring finish.
The Keys launched into "Strange Times" and "Oceans and Streams" from Attack before performing straightforward takes on "Your Touch" and "The Breaks," songs from Magic Potion and The Big Come Up, respectively. Auerbach took a seat at a small keyboard for "Oceans," which evoked a spooky, haunted-house feel.
Dan Auerbach - The Black Keys :: 05.15
The band's final stretch included "Remember When (B)," an alt-rock flavored song off Attack that echoed a bit of Nirvana's "Breed" in its driving guitar and drums, before moving into "Wicked Messenger," "No Trust" and a blazing version of "I Got Mine" featuring a healthy dose of guitar distortion, while Auerbach thrashed and flailed around the stage.
After about five minutes of audience screaming, the boys returned for a two-song encore, starting with the dark, psychedelic "Psychotic Girl," highlighted by Auerbach's eerie vocals, and wrapped up the show with "Till I Get My Way," a throwback blues number that gave the crowd a final taste of the band's pulsing drums and driving guitar.
In sum, it was another night of garage-rock revival with The Black Keys. They came. They killed it. And though it was a relatively short show (under 90 minutes), they did not disappoint, providing a nice dose of new songs mixed with older down-and-dirty favorites. The Keys must be seen live to be fully appreciated. After all, this is a band that used to purposefully go into studios with rudimentary recording equipment to ensure their albums would maintain a rough, raw live sound. Night after night Auerbach and Carney leave everything on the stage, as evidenced by the sweat, spit and broken drum sticks left behind at Terminal 5.
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