Rawness is the (Black) Key to success

— Siobhan Gallagher contributed with this report.

It may have taken eight years and six albums, but the Akron, Ohio duo The Black Keys look to have finally found their place amongst the mainstream rock contingent.

Fresh off supporting Kings of Leon at their Hyde Park mega-show in June, and victory at the MTV VMAs ‘Breakthrough Video’ for the excellent “Tighten Up”,  they’re embarking on a series of sold out shows across the country in support of their “Brothers” album —  including this one at Nottingham Rock City on November 4th.

You could forgive them, then, for only playing tracks from the new album — but they surprising played a lot of tracks from the back catalogue.

Opener “Thickfreakness” was a rip-roaring start to affairs, before turning to the slower tempoed “Girl Is On My Mind”. The blistering speed of the opening tracks, which also included “10am Automatic”, left drummer Patrick Carney covered in sweat, while the mesmerizing guitar work of Dan Auerbach sent the crowd into a frenzy of head banging and bouncing around the venue.


Dan Auerbach is the singer and guitarist of the Black Keys. Photo: Kate Gardiner

It was hard not to feel spaced out while watching and you felt as though you’d been transported to a American Deep South cowboy bar, due to the heavy rawness of their earlier tracks, including “Stack Shot Billy”, “Act Nice and Gentle”, and “Busted”.

However, it took the majority of the crowd to rev up once they were joined on stage by a bassist and keyboardist to play tracks from the new album. In the howling chorus of “Next Girl”, Auerbach managed to get the whole crowd echoing back the lyrics, while in the aforementioned “Tighten Up”, his whistling was imitated by several in the crowd, though they didn’t not ooze the same coolness as Auerbach.

The Black Keys also played a few songs from 2008’s “Attack & Release” album, including “Strange Times” and “I Got Mine”, which was produced by Danger Mouse, one half of Gnarls Barkley. They returned with an encore of “Sinister Kid” and “Your Touch”, the latter getting the whole crowd moving and jumping around and even starting a few mosh pits, strangely. 

Overall, The Black Keys’ brilliance of their early blues rock efforts combined to blow the crowd and venue away, while in light of newer efforts, they showed they had added coolness to their rawness as they seem to play without much effort.

The one disappointment was the lack of interest in the crowd for their older songs, many of whom only seemed to turn up for the newer stuff.

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