The Black Keys brought a hard-charging rock 'n' roll show to Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night, but the raw blues soul of their music was unfortunately diluted in such an enormous venue.
The band, Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums), is ostensibly a duo. But after impressive and popular work with producer Danger Mouse and hip-hop artists, it's not surprising that, for this arena tour, the duo had two other guys on hand to help out with bass, keys and guitar. A bit disappointing, really: The two make such considerably attractive noise together that it doesn't seem necessary to flesh it out with extraneous players, who joined the band off and on for the first and final parts of the show.
The band mostly played songs from their last few albums, kicking off with the stomp of Brothers' "Howlin' For You." Several songs later, "Gold on the Ceiling" lost the glam sheen found on their latest album, El Camino, but fit the huge video backdrop of a drive through desert canyons.
The duo shined when they played as, well, a duo. The extras left the stage for Rubber Factory's "Girl is on My Mind," and a sped-up version of "Your Touch" enlivened the rather sleepy crowd as the Hollywood-style canister lights behind the band popped.
"Ten Cent Pistol" was The Black Keys at their most classic blues-rock sound, and closer "Lonely Boy" chugged along resolutely but likely would've been more impressive with just the actual Black Keys.
After a few minutes of the crowd's half-hearted clapping for the encore, the band came back on. What were likely two of the biggest disco balls in the world descended above the stage and mixing board for, fittingly, "Everlasting Light," the most spectacular part of the show, and a rare moment that made full use of the cavernous venue.
The band followed that with "She's Long Gone" and "I Got Mine." They've definitely gotten theirs over the past decade, with a library of impressive albums and an impressively large following. It'll be interesting to see if The Black Keys retract into smaller venues in coming tours; if so, you'll want to see them in a more intimate space.
Openers Arctic Monkeys have attracted a considerably smaller following in the States, but a following nonetheless. The crowd, surprisingly subdued for The Black Keys, was even more so for the English band, in spite of an inspired performance from leader Alex Turner and drummer Matt Helders, who led hard-charging songs like "Still Take You Home," which featured riffs worthy of Dead Kennedys (the comment section is open for business, folks).
The band slowed it down a bit for the cynical Queens of the Stone Age-esque stoner sludge of "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," but sped it up again for songs like "Brick by Brick," which the drummer sang for a bit, and which, done a tad dirtier, could pass for early Stooges.
The band closed with "R U Mine?", one of their darker, more mature tunes, and a fitting segue into The Black Keys' performance.