The Black Keys might have a big enough fanbase to sell out Madison Square Garden but they are not ready for Madison Square Garden yet. It took over an hour of their 90 minute set on Thursday for the close circuits TV to show a clear projection of Dan Auerbach, what you got instead was video of highways, silhouettes of the band and abstract geometric shapes.
Wait a second.
I paid $60 for a tix in the laughably dubbed cheap seats to see… nothing? I don't hate the Black Keys the way I do, say, Foo Fighters. They have a clutch of good songs and the duo, Dan and drummer Patrick Carney, have chemistry together to burn. They have the dynamism of a Jeff, The Brotherhood. But now imagine a Jeff, The Brotherhood seen from a mile away. Got it?
The Black Keys are two guys and three back up musicians playing blues and rock but mainly blues, one of them moves and does what little speaking there is to the audience. The other one sits behind his drumkit center stage and bangs em hard. And they performed for three quarters of an hour, then the three musicians left the stage, and they played a s duo and then all five played together.
The sound was large enough though the band came across as small. Dan is a good blues guitarist with a great deal of self control, no outlandish jams, no wild improvising. He was taking care of business. And Patrick is a better drummer who single handedly shook the place. The second song "Next girl" was a thrill, and a late "Little Black Submarine" goes from an acoustic beauty to a hard rock jam and is the best song of the set. Their earliest songs, stuff like "Chop And Change", haven't worn well and their latest stuff is better but not much better live.
So, if judge on just the set as music, it wasn't bad. But judged as a concert by a major rock band in a big Arena, it was not at all good. It doesn't move, they can't dance, they don't use their cameras effectively and it sounded like too much of the same. A too long half hour between sets irritated and the band is ugly and lacks charisma.