Show Review: The Black Keys with The Arctic Monkeys at Oracle Arena, 5/4/12

by Dakin Hardwick on May 9, 2012

All Photos by David Price

I’ve seen The Black Keys twice before going to this show. The first time was opening for Sleater Kinney at The Great American Music Hall in 2003. It was two guys that looked like they came in off the streets, playing super lo-fi blues. I honestly didn’t know what to think of them, and I forgot about them for a number of years. Then, in 2009, I saw them again in Austin, playing the back patio of a dive bar. It was appearantly a huge deal, and I managed to miss the fact that they were slowly becoming one of the biggest bands in rock. Fast forward a mere three years later, and they are playing arenas. I kept flashing back to that tiny (literally) little band I saw nearly a decade ago, and I couldn’t believe they were playing one of the biggest venues in Northern California. So, I decided it was time to give them another go!

Often times, when you see a support act in a huge arena, you get a handful of hardcore fans of the support act mixed in with the fans of the headliner. Generally, throughout the support acts set in this type of setting, you find people trickling in, waiting in line for their beer and nachos, and casually filling the seats, usually with the area full by the end of the set. This was definitely not the case for The Arctic Monkeys’ performance. In fact, by the shows 8 pm start time, nearly every seat was filled. And from the moment that the band took the stage, the crowd went crazy. The Arctic Monkeys fans were in full force… The audience was one epic, unison pogo.

Alex Turner. Not Pictured: Gravity

When the band first came out on the scene, they were stoic britpop band. The band that played Oracle Arena was a muscular, aggressive, garage punk juggernaut. Bassist Nick O’Malley’s playing style- an aggressive attack on the instrument using actual chords- is the key to the evolution of this band’s sound. His rhythmic assault provided the necessary heavy to balance out singer Alex Turner’s dry vocal delivery. The band burned through 15 songs in their hour long set, all with hardly saying a word. It was a delirious and inevitably fulfilling set.

Arctic Monkeys’ Setlist:

Brianstorm
This House Is a Circus
Still Take You Home
Library Pictures
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
The View From the Afternoon
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
Pretty Visitors
If You Were There, Beware
Teddy Picker
Crying Lightning
She’s Thunderstorms
Fluorescent Adolescent
Evil Twin
Brick by Brick
R U Mine?

Dan Auerbach

My biggest worry about The Black Keys in an arena type setting was pretty simple- I was worried that the duo wouldn’t be able to fill the such a huge space with their minimalist blues rock sound.  Well, they casually walked on stage: drummer Patrick Carney and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach, with their live set up filled out by bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist John Wood on board to fill flesh out their live sound.

Of course, from the moment they started playing, all fears about how this band would work in such a large, cavernous room were immediately put to rest. The kicked the show off with the steady groove of Brothers’ “Howlin For You.” This kicked of 90 minutes of pure blues and soul filtered rock and roll. Each song, heck, each riff, was big enough to fill an even bigger room!

Patrick Carney

Carney is one of the finest drummers in the business, keeping a steady rhythm, all while playing actual melodies on his kit. He is the kind of drummer that plays as if Animal from The Muppets was trained at Berklee School Of Music. Auerbach, with his smooth, soulful croon plays nicely alongside his fierce blues rock riffing. This band’s sound is nearly perfect. The two extra members seemed almost unnecessary, but what they did add- an extra organ line or bass part here and there, is the difference between the band sounding like a punked up garage/blues fusion, and more like a full on blue eyed soul revival.

About halfway through the set, we did get the old school duo version of The Black Keys. This helped take the crowd from politely fist pumping to full on dancing. Admittedly, at no time did the crowd burst into the frantic chaos of the Arctic Monkeys set, but that’s fine, because it’s not what these guys do.

The most refreshing thing about this set is that the band avoided nearly all of the major things bands due when moving from theaters to arenas. The light show wasn’t overly flashly. There were tasteful video screens. There was not scripted banter, or overly ambitious theatrics. It was, simply, a band playing music. It felt so very real- in a way that you would never get from seeing Coldplay or U2 or even Radiohead these days.  It’s nice to hear a band fill a room with nothing but pure soul.

The Black Keys’ Setlist:

Howlin’ for You
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Dead and Gone
Gold on the Ceiling
Thickfreakness
Girl Is On My Mind
I’ll Be Your Man
Your Touch
Little Black Submarines
Money Maker
Strange Times
Nova Baby
Ten Cent Pistol
Tighten Up
Lonely Boy

Encore:
Everlasting Light
She’s Long Gone
I Got Mine

More pics can be found at flickr.com/davidpricephoto

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