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.
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.
"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.
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.