Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Black Keys & Arctic Monkeys Rattle the Garden with Straight-Ahead Rock

Although The Black Keys have exploded from a moderately successful act to arena headliner in just a few years, the band kept its no-frills approach to performing at Thursday's concert at Madison Square Garden.

The Black Keys + two at MSG Thursday. 

 The duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney unleashed one bluesy rocker after another, starting with "Howlin' For You," with Auerbach occasionally pausing briefly between songs to thank the audience and ask how everyone was doing. Other than that, he was content to zip into another tune, several times saying things like, "Let's keep it moving right along" or "We're gonna move on to the next one, huh?"

The simple stage layout featured guitarist and singer Auerbach and drummer Carney up front and side by side, with two multi-instrumentalists (identified only as "Josh" and "John") behind them to fill out the sound. At about the middle point of the show, the backing players left the stage and Auerbach and Carney reeled off about a half-dozen tunes by themselves. But with the chops and chemistry the two share, their bare-bones guitar-and-drums-only sound managed to fill the Garden.

Carney (left) and Auerbach performed a set of tunes without their backing musicians. 

The Black Keys played songs from throughout their catalog, with an emphasis on their two latest albums, "El Camino" and their breakthrough, "Brothers." Fans were treated to "Run Right Back," "Strange Times," "Chop and Change," "Thickfreakness," "Tighten Up," and of course "Lonely Boy," the first single off "El Camino," the last song in the regular set. (See's review for a full Black Keys MSG setlist.) Disco balls descended from the ceiling, and from the general-admission floor, for "Everlasting Light," the first tune in the three-song encore.

Arctic Monkeys opened Thursday's show MSG.

British rockers Arctic Monkeys got the show off to a rousing start. Although they were more communicative with the audience than The Black Keys, they similarly ripped through a set of uptempo songs with a no-frills attitude. The emphasis, as expected was on their latest album, "Suck It and See."

The Black Keys could have sold out Madison Square Garden twice by themselves, but the inclusion of Arctic Monkeys made this show an even more attractive twin bill.

Considering The Black Keys' reputation as road warriors who tour relentlessly, if you missed the band on this leg of their tour you'll probably get a chance to catch them soon.

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