The Black Keys/Arctic Monkeys | 04.27.12

One listen to “Tighten Up” or “Lonely Boy” and you realize that, outside of being obviously mass-consumable, they are really just great songs.




Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis

The Black Keys don’t need hundreds of lights, a projector screen, or a large stage. These things are simply a necessity in an arena and festival setting where people may be thousands of feet away from the creators of some of the best blues and—dare I say—blues-pop of our time. 
Before the broadly aged crowd (5-65) would get to dance, the Arctic Monkeys from Sheffield, England, would have their chance to introduce themselves to the sold-out Chaifetz Arena, and they would not waste one second of their hour on the stage. 
Lead singer Alex Turner immediately brought the Monkeys’ post-punk into the set with “Brianstorm.” The band wouldn’t slow down until the fifth song of the set, when they launched into “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.” The song leans toward the more alt-rock side of things the band has occasionally taken since working with Queens of the Stone Age lead singer Josh Homme. 
The band sometimes bring an incredibly eerie sound that shined through on “Pretty Visitors” and “If You Were There, Beware.” Bassist Nick O’Malley uses the slower, spooky tracks to shine, as there isn’t much space left on the faster punk tracks between the ferocious drumming of Matt Helders and the guitar duo of Turner and Jamie Cook. 
The band seemed to feel unhindered by the opening set, fully opening up and play B-side “Evil Twin” and a new song that hasn’t yet found an album, “R U Mine.” Though the crowd may have been more than ready for the Black Keys, a contingent of Arctic Monkeys fans passionately screamed for the band to play different tracks, but their time had come to an end.
As the crowd pushed in during the 45-minute break between sets and some drunken SLU student heaved chunks onto the floor, a gentleman to my right noted very wisely, “It’s still nice to see younger people listening to this kind of music.” He was, of course, completely correct. 
The Black Keys may have become extremely popular but, much in the same vein as Arcade Fire, it’s because they are simply a great band. One listen to “Tighten Up” or “Lonely Boy” and you realize that, outside of being obviously mass-consumable, they are really just great songs. 
The addition of touring musicians Gus Seyffert and John Wood give the two-man band a depth and volume level that will quite frankly knock you on your ass if you are unprepared or think the  newer tracks contain any sort of softness. Slightly older songs like “Same Old Thing” and “Strange Times” grow in size until they fill the arena. 
One thing the Keys either chose to or just could not fill was the stage. As Patrick Carney’s drum kit was rolled out, it seemed nearly in the middle of the stage, with easily 15 to 20 feet of the left side of the stage sitting completely unused, and the same applied for the side where singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach resided. 
When just the two remained on stage, though, there was simply a chemistry that could not be simulated with additional musicians. “Thickfreakness” roared, “I’ll Be Your Man” crooned and strutted, and “I Got Mine” brought the house down with a thunderous roar that no amount of fire and explosions at a Nickelback concert ever could. | Bruce Matlock


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