Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Black Keys & Arctic Monkey's Live Review 3-22-12 @ MSG

Blacks Keys
w/ Arctic Monkeys
Madison Square Garden  3-22-12

This was more of a split bill then an opener closer situation as the Arctic Monkeys went on right at the ticketed showtime to a half full "World's Most Famous Arena".  Looking like 50's greasers the 4 piece blasted out a tight, aggressive, arena ready set that was well coordinated and active even if most in attendance did not seem to be into the group.  The strobe light filled "Brianstorm" opened things up, leaving the innovators in the dust before the punk double bill of "Still Take You Home" and "Library Pictures" thundered.
"The View From The Afternoon" was a classic example of the Sheffield spastic fun that the band can produce; messing with genres and still keeping the beat flowing.  "Crying Lightning" had snake like riffs and drums for days, marching and pounding with venom.  Alex Turner seemed a bit bored with the crowd but the group still produced the disco nightmare of "Fluorescent Adolescent" with precision.

A couple of B-Sides closed out the set with "Evil Twin" warming things up before the band rocked out awesomely to "R U Mine?" exiting the arena on a high note after a completely killer set of tunes.         

Next up were The Black Keys with Patrick Carney's drum set moved to the front of the stage so he and guitarist Dan Auerbach could be in the spotlight.  Strolling out to a "Liquid Swords" intro the duo soaked in the adulation but they weren't alone.   The Keys expanded to a four piece for certain songs with bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist/second guitarist John Wood who helped out with the opener "Howlin' For You" which was fast paced (a common theme on this night) but exhilarating as the crowd exploded.  It took until then to realize that The Black Keys may be the biggest American band going today, one look around saw fans of all ages singing along and shaking their hips, air guitar and drumming along with the Akron, OH band.
On "Run Right Back" the background players actually shined the brightest as Wood took the lead on the slide guitar parts freeing Auerbach to croon to the crowd about the worst thing that he is addicted too.  Gus and John stuck around also for an older tune "Same Old Thing" which benefited from the new live arraignment before they left the stage to allow Dan and Patrick to get old school for bit.   

"Girl Is On My Mind" had a spacey edge to it as the riffs range around the Garden, even producing a sweet/lazy feeling and "I'll Be Your Man" strutted with confidence as if the song itself knew that it could fill up the venue with only a duo playing it. When Gus and John returned the group focused on their newest release El Camino by playing the "Stairway To Heaven" inspired "Little Black Submarines" and "Money Maker".  The latter was raced through so fast however it lost all the swagger they infused into the studio version making it a much weaker song and that seemed to be a recurring problem on a lot of the newer numbers.
 "Nove Baby" had some killer riffs and a mean ass solo, but never reveled in the shimmy and shake that makes it such a tasty song.  Instead the band seemed to be banging out beats as quick as possible...who knows perhaps they were simply excited to be back playing MSG or maybe they took the intro hip/hop tune a bit too literally and indulged in vices.   Any-which-way, "Lonely Boy" got the biggest ovation of the night and showed off some of the biggest riffs as it closed the bands main set. 

Easily the musical highlight of the night was the first song of the encore and the first song off of their best album Brothers, "Everlasting Light".  The band finally slowed down and eased into the soul that makes them a must listen to, using a giant disco ball to light up the Garden was a pretty cool move too.  The brutal "I Got Mine" was fierce and for most in attendance an apt summation of the night as the band closed out a milestone show.   

Overall the four piece aspect of the group seems to be a bit of an issue for the Keys.  The song writing on the last two albums has obviously benefited from the expanded sound they are producing but they still have a bit of trouble catching the groove live.

The band aggressively and speedily bangs their glam rock tinged blues, but can't seem to dig into the deep rhythms and laid back nuances that elevate the recent albums; it is as if Auerbach and Carney are so used to primal 4-on-the-floor style that they can't let it go.  If they do the band will certainly benefit by letting the songs (and the audience) catch their breath, get their groove on, and enjoy some of the best rock and roll produced in recent years.  Maybe next tour it will all come together.       


  1. Thanks for both comments...Wildly differing as they are.

    I had a good time at the show, I hope that came through. That said, I don't think I am nitpicking saying the new songs were played too fast, they were. Except for "Everlasting Light" which was killer.

    The band has produced the 2 of the best RnR albums in years, I am just wishing their live set could match it and giving an honest review.

    Thanks Very Much for reading and commenting.

  2. CrossEyed&PainlessJuly 14, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    I liked your review. Just read after reading a lil more ab the Keys. I agree w/ your critique. Like the songs, wish they monopolized on Auerbach's playing more & less on playing every song.
    I've never seen another band w/ the drummer out front like that - what do you think Carney's goal is? I mean, he can be just as loud & powerful in the normal spot in the back of the stage. Full disclosure, I'm a guitar shredder freak.

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