Observing a band that you have watched grow from infancy get embraced by the masses can be a strange experience. The feeling is similar to purchasing a new t-shirt, only to be later informed that you must share it with all of your friends. It can be disconcerting, to say the least.
It seems like just yesterday that The Black Keys were playing at The Vogue for $20 a head. Watching the ticket prices to a sold-out show at The Lawn at White River soar to above $80 on Stubhub was rather surreal. These guys have made it. Much to my own surprise, I am happy about it.
Rather than harbor resentment for the yuppies that only know The Keys from their most recent work Brothers, I choose instead to embrace it. This is the music that I want America to listen to. This is the music that I want the radio stations to play. Not Gaga, Young Jeezy or Coldplay. This. Shit. Right. Here. Mannnnn.
I arrived at The Lawn to Booker T Jones and the MG’s performing their version of Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign.” For the next several tracks, Booker T hopped out from behind his Hammond B-3 organ to riff on rhythm guitars. Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” went missing halfway through the song when the drummer doubled as hype man/freestyle rapper. For me, the highlight of the set was the closer “Time is Tight,” a song I’ll forever associate with The Blues Brothers film.
Here come the boys.
The Black Keys came on stage around 9:30 to a packed house undeterred by a lousy weather forecast. “Thickfreakness” kicked things off. I am beginning to wonder whether they ever open with anything else. They continued to shower the crowd with older songs, with five tracks from The Big Come Up and my personal favorite, Rubber Factory.
As far as I’m concerned, the night could have ended six songs deep with The Keys’ rendition of The Kinks classic “Act Nice and Gentle.” I would have left satisfied with a permagrin til Tuesday. Then, the giant disco ball dropped and a bassist and keyboard player joined the boys for a slew of cuts from Brothers.
Hardly my first Keys show, I still find myself fascinated by drummer Patrick Carney’s play. This gangly goof of a man wails away like some psychotic, spewing sweat on everyone in the first six rows. Magic! Carney’s play reaffirms what bandmate Dan Auerbach must have known ten years ago when the duo began jamming in that Akron, Ohio basement: this is all I need.
Though the set only lasted for an hour and ten minutes, no one left short changed. The Keys rifled through 18 songs, playing a sensational mix of new and old. “Strange Times” from the Danger Mouse produced Attack and Release served as one of the show’s second half highlights.
Booker T came back on stage for a solid version of “I’ll be Your Man.” I was bummed that The Keys missed out on an opportunity to let the legend solo. If there was a chance for an extended jam, this was it.
Chanting fans brought The Keys back on stage for a two-song encore: “Sinister Kid” followed by “Your Touch.” I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone last night. I am happy that everyone is finally on board, now go brush up on some of their older shit.