The Black Keys, US Airways Center, 10/9/12
Melissa Fossum The Black Keys
The Black Keys @ US Airways|10/9/12
The Black Keys have come a long way since their last performance in Phoenix a year and a half ago. They released a new album, El Camino, played prime time slots at Coachella two years in a row, and performed at a much larger venue last night.
The decision for both Black Keys and Tegan and Sara to expand from a two-person act to a full band seems to be a good one, as both musicians had their share of enthused fans.
The show wasn't quite sold out, which was surprising compared to the huge draws at Radiohead and Arcade Fire, but it was pretty packed regardless. The main sections were pretty full, so only a few poor saps were stuck in the nosebleed section.
Melissa Fossum Dan Auerbach
The Black Keys' set focused on its two latest albums, El Camino and Brothers, which find the band experimenting with new tones such as Curtis Mayfield's funk and fuller instrumentation. The addition of a bassist and keyboardist makes the songs sound even bigger live, from newer tunes like "Nova Baby" and "Dead and Gone" to old favorites like "Strange Times" and "Same Old Thing."
Can The Black Keys still hold their own as a two-piece at an arena show? Absolutely. The rest of the band left the stage for a few songs, leaving Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney to play "Thickfreakness," "Girl Is on My Mind" and "Your Touch" on their own. The songs sounded a little fuzzier and unpolished than the others, but the change was difficult to notice because they were old songs and the duo can still play them well.
Melissa Fossum Patrick Carney
The band changed the pace of songs every so often, and it was mostly a nice twist. "Everlasting Light" was a little too slow, but it was cool to hear a bluesier take on the song. The sped up guitar on opening track "Howlin' for You" more than made up for it.
Hearing the songs live really brought them to life. The band started with two songs from Brothers. Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach said they were going to play a new song, and threw Attack and Release's "Same Old Thing" in the mix early on. This was followed by a couple of the catchier songs from El Camino, "Dead and Gone" and "Gold on the Ceiling" which sounded better live than on the record. The Black Keys' first few albums are ideally listened to on vinyl, but the last two are ideal for a big production with a full band and a large audience to watch.
A highlight of the evening was "Little Black Submarines." The song's tempo changes and growing intensity made it The Black Keys' answer to Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home." The song was also a great transition for the band to return, as Auerbach crooned about a broken heart and the crowd softly sang along, then the lights came up and the bassists and keyboardist joined in. The song has the intensity of a '70s classic ballad that was written decades later, and isn't as irritating like fans constantly shouting "FREEBIRD."
Melissa Fossum The Black Keys
The band closed out its first set with a rousing "Lonely Boy" and returned as a huge disco ball slowly descended from the ceiling. Auerbach said his thanks and mentioned that it's been awhile since they've played a Phoenix show. "I don't know why we don't play here more often," he said, kicking off a slowed down "Everlasting Light."
Things picked back up for the band's grand finale of "I Got Mine" as the disco ball disappeared and and was replaced with a glowing marquee displaying The Black Keys' name.