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Monday, 13 February 2012

Live Review – The Black Keys


Alexandra Palace, London, February 11 2012

The great, and I truly mean great, thing about live music is that you can watch a band and think "What’s all the fuss about?", then see said same band again a year or so later and think "Oh my, how good are these cats!" It’s happened this weekend – I’ve finally succumbed to The Black Keys...

Firstly some words for support act Band Of Skulls. No matter how rock you dress, you suck mightily with your bland, nondescript corporation-sanctioned beard rock. If I was being generous I could make a comparison to The Raconteurs, but that would only upset His Whiteness, for even his third best band are still head and shoulders above this sludge.

So the main attraction are now firmly in Kings Of Leon territory, playing mega gigs to thousands of fans all over the UK. On another freezing night in London the band had everyone going gaga for the whole show. The trappings of success are clear for all to see – roadies in suits and Coldstream Guards jackets, video projections, even Patrick Carney’s drumkit has had an Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat makeover. The duo on this tour to promote possibly their best album yet, El Camino, have been augmented by a bass player and keyboards, and it has meant the rock in their blues-rock sound has come to the foreground. The band overcome this difficult venue (beautiful and historic yes, but not suited for gigs in my opinion) to inject a thrilling dose of all-important soul into their performance. The new organ sounds have especially transformed them, so much so that if you closed your eyes you could imagine it was a late ’60s West Coast garage band onstage. Kicking off with Brothers' cuts rocker ‘Howlin’ For You’ and ‘Next Girl’, they ran through 20 songs taken from all periods of their career. ‘Lonely Boy’ was astonishingly fierce and possibly their ’Seven Nation Army’.

The melodies appear sharper on the new stuff, as befits a band at that unenviable/inevitable "must write anthems" career stage. But they pull it off with aplomb, and I suspect these seemingly grounded gentlemen know nothing else. They wrapped up this tour in style tonight.

They should definitely keep the four-piece line-up thing happening. Sometimes less is more, but sometimes more is more fun.

Phil Istine

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