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The Black Keys Seize Madison Square Garden
Following the release of their seventh studio album, El Camino, The Black Keys embarked on a whirlwind tour with Arctic Monkeys, playing to swarms of fans, including two sold out shows at New York City’s prestigious Madison Square Garden. Flashback to Thursday night – Grammy winners Dan Auerbach & Patrick Carney entered the stage. A roaring sea of fans ignited. The Black Keys filled MSG with their explosive sound, & it was clear: the audience’s hunger for a night of blues rock revelry would be swiftly satiated.
The Black Keys opened with cult favorite “Howlin’ for You” (from Brothers, 2010) to fans’ palpable excitement. A riveting energy radiated throughout MSG as Auerbach & Carney pummeled through an ambitious setlist with the grace of polished rock gods. They played an exhilarating assortment of new & old tracks, at times accompanied by bassist Gus Seyffert & keyboardist John Wood. The crowd violently applauded monster tracks from The Black Keys’ most recent albums, Brothers (“Next Girl”, “Tighten Up”) & El Camino (“Run Right Back”, “Dead And Gone”, “Gold On The Ceiling”, “Money Maker”, “Nova Baby”, “Lonely Boy”). Auerbach’s passionate guitar riffing & soulful, bluesy vocals combined with Carney’s fierce percussion to command absolute attention from the sold out audience – an audience whose condition was nothing but obediently & frantically entranced. The crowd was very involved, singing along to the dynamic movements of “Little Black Submarine” (from El Camino, 2011) & the heartfelt sentiment of “I’ll Be Your Man” (from The Big Come Up, 2002), among other songs. Taken aback by the crowd’s insanely loud applause to “Tighten Up”, Auerbach remarked, “I feel like we’ve got the whole city in here tonight.”
The encore commenced with “Everlasting Light” (from Brothers, 2010), sweetly sung in falsetto while two giant disco balls romantically illuminated the crowd in glowing specks of light. A mighty performance of “She’s Long Gone” (from Brothers, 2010) followed, & the accompanying musicians were shed before Auerbach & Carney took on “I Got Mine” (from Attack & Release, 2008), the final song of the night. The duo’s intense performance effectively showcased their dominance over a capacity crowd.
The absence of pyrotechnics & gimmicks seemed premeditated, specifically to allow The Black Keys to shine & for fans to reflect on the magnitude of bearing witness to the stellar rise of two rock deities. The Black Keys’ bold, retro rock & blues sound has cultivated an allegiant following across the globe since the band formed in 2001, & deservedly so. While some long-time fans accuse co-producer Danger Mouse of bastardizing The Black Keys’ raw blues style in Brothers & El Camino, the roaring crowd at MSG on Thursday night would surely beg to differ. It’s Auerbach & Carney’s artful delivery of sultry blues rock that solidifies The Black Keys’ inarguable right to critical acclaim, & legions of fans are wise to embrace them.