Monday, 29 October 2012

Gig Review - The Black Keys (26/10/12)

THE BLACK KEYS (26/10/12)
Live @ The Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Review by Jo Michelmore

There are some bands that are amazing to see in a tiny venue; maybe a bar or a smoke filled room somewhere, their music begs to fill small spaces and 'nooks in the wall' type venues. There are some bands that need to play giant arenas, stadiums filled with tens of thousands of people all screaming and bouncing and filling a huge space with energy. Then there are bands like the Black Keys.

I’m going to admit, a venue of the ‘arena’ type, the Brisbane Entertainment Centre is not a venue I love. It’s situated in swamplands on the outskirts of the city. Surrounded by suburbia, the venue itself is cold and harsh and a little dated (not in a good way) it’s not the ideal place to see live music. This wasn’t the place I was hoping to see the Keys, but I go wherever the music takes me and last Friday night that’s where I needed to be.

Some silhouettes across a white screen backdrop and the distinctive drums of ‘Howlin’ For You’ open the show and immediately I know I’m in for a special live music experience, they sound exactly as they should, every note where it needs to be and it doesn’t take long before that “da da da da da” refrain has the venue filled with the sound of voices singing along. They power through song after song of amazing, mainly from their more recent offerings, ‘Brothers’ and ‘El Camino’ but the standout tracks came from numerous albums; ‘Dead And Gone’, Thickfreakness’, ‘Ten Cent Pistol’ and ‘Lonely Boy’ being especially strong. Dan Auerbach is one of those special people who is able to make his guitar pull your heart out of your chest in one song (hello ‘Girl Is On My Mind’, which I never wanted to end) and then he has you dancing like a puppet on his string the next (hello ‘Gold On the Ceiling’; I challenge anyone who wasn’t moving during that performance to prove they have a heartbeat). That’s not to take anything away from drummer Patrick Carney, who keeps everything together, whether it be as part of a four piece (as they are with keyboard player/guitarist player John Wood and bassist Gus Seyffert on this current tour) or a two piece, Patrick takes them from rootsy blues right through to garage rock and some 70’s psychedelia. Interestingly, stripping back to a two piece (as they did mid-way through the set and for the encore) seems to create the biggest impression, it’s during these moments I can see myself sitting in that small bar watching two boys on a tiny stage in the corner, but I’m also keenly aware of the sound of rock music, which is made for stadiums. My favourite part of any gig, the sing-along, is strong in ‘Little Black Submarines’ and although the crowd is small, they savour every minute of it.

Finishing the set with the audience pleasing ‘Lonely Boy’, I do wonder if they’ll come back for more, but as I see what seems to be one of the world’s biggest disco balls being lowered from the roof, I suspect I’m in for something special. This is a moment that can only be had in a large venue and literally took my breath away, during the lighting created for ‘Everlasting Light’, I gasped “wow” numerous times and judging by the amount of instagram photos hash tagged ‘Black Keys’, ‘disco ball’ and ‘pretty’ after the show, it seems a lot of other people were just as impressed. They pulled out all their big arena tricks for the encore, with a flashing Vegas style ‘Black Keys’ sign lowered for the final song, they were tricks perfectly timed as they left the crowd on a high, not ready for the end.

Bands like the Black Keys are special. In a big arena they have the ability to fill it completely with rock and dancing and noise like a big venue should be filled but they haven’t lost the ability to pull each and every audience member to the stage, feeling intimate and welcomed and comfortable. There’s a special talent in being able to do that and it’s one I hope to witness again, soon.

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