Following on from a successful appearance at Tennents Vital in Belfast, The Black Keys brought their brand of swaggering blues rock to Dublin’s O2 arena. The nights material was mostly drawn from their breakthrough album ‘El Camino’ and its 2010 predecessor ‘Brothers’, but the band also delved further back in time for songs such as Your Touch and Thickfreakness.
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney wasted no time diving straight in to a quivering version of Howlin’ For You, a song which could as easily be called For You, Howlin’ as it is forged with a classic deep-south blues blueprint. Dan Auerbach’s guitar work is beautifully weighted throughout the tremolo verses and a virtuoso solo section. Next Girl continues the onslaught of sexual blues riffs and done me wrong lyrics. Several songs in Auerbach’s guitar maestro status is secured, The only question that remains is, is he the heir apparent to Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimmy Page or both. He has the voice to match his guitar chops, delivering utterly believable, seductive, gravelly refrains, full of lust and innuendos. The throbbing sexual nature of the material was heightened by the pumping oversized ’30s flashbulb set design. Run Right Back the first song to be taken from ‘El Camino’ caused mass hysteria thanks to its pulsating bass line and unifying moments such as “she’s the worst thing I’ve been addicted to”. The feel good factor continued as thousands of voices sang the “Na na” sections throughout Dead and Gone and furthermore on the gritty glam inspired Gold On The Ceiling.
At this point the hired guns on bass and keyboards departed leaving The Black Keys as a duo for the first time in the evening. How would they fare with this stripped down bare bones approach? Unbelievably they were louder and bolder than they were as a four piece, delving in to their back catalogue for songs such as Thickfreakness and I’ll Be Your Man, which uses the type of crazy distortion tone that childhood rock n’ roll dreams are made of. The crowd lapped up this section of the show wholeheartedly, despite many fans having never heard the material before. It’s lighter in the air time as Dan Auerbach goes momentarily solo for a version of Little Black Submarines, but the crowd are delighted when Patrick Carney joins in on drums halfway through. The crowd are stunned as Auerbach sprints across the stage for his electric guitar and the band are seamlessly reintroduced to the fray, as the heavy outro section of Little Black Submarines crashes in to life.
Money Maker brings back the glam rock party atmosphere to The O2 while Strange Times heightens the pace still with some QOTSA-esque riffs and yet more fantasy guitar distortion. It’s sing-along time once again as organ swirls and throbbing bass carry the crowd through the “And I don’t know what you want” chorus of Nova Baby. With its broken-hearted mid pace shuffle, Ten Cent Pistol has a Ray Charles meets Bill Withers feel to it. A wonderful sudden change of pace to the performance and once again highlights Auerbach’s immense flexibility as a guitar player. The Black Keys close the set with their big hits Tighten Up and Lonely Boy. which is performed at a merciless pace.
As the band say their goodbyes the inevitable cries of “one more tune” fill the room, but the crowds fervour for more is astounding and the noise they create is deafening as stamping feet and clapping hands combine making it seem as though the roof may cave in. The Black Keys return to the stage for an impressive version of Everlasting Light featuring some top-notch falsetto vocals by Auerbach. A giant glitter ball slowly descends from the ceiling much to the delight of the crowd who bask in the shining light. The evening finished with a turbocharged version of I Got Mine which once again featured some stunning fretmanship. The last hurrah came when the song reached its crescendo and the flashbulb lights joined to read The Black Keys in giant letters drawing an ecstatic reaction from the crowd.
The Black Keys may be the flavour of the month right now, but with material on offer tonight dating back as far as 2003, it’s clear that they have been one of the best bands in the world for some time. They are a walking up yours to the “if they don’t have a hit drop’em quick” record industry that stifles the development of talent by throwing them on the scrap-heap at the first hurdle. The Black Keys embody the old way of doing things when talent, not fame was the necessity. The best gig of the year by some distance