Four years removed from their last Dublin show in what was then the Temple Bar Music Centre, The Black Keys returned to play the first date of their European tour on Wednesday, riding a tidal wave of buzz garnered from the critical success of their sixth – and best – album, Brothers. The duo from Akron, Ohio have long been the toast of their peers, with Robert Plant, Thom Yorke, Eddie Vedder and even (before their deaths) Ike Turner and John Peel among their lengthy list of admirers, but this was a night not for their contemporaries but for the few hundred people rammed into a tightly-packed Tripod.
Taking to the stage not a minute past the advertised 8.50pm, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney immediately launched into ‘Thickfreakness’, one of their dirtier, bluesy numbers from their second album of the same name, immediately setting a standard which wouldn’t be diminished over the next 90 minutes. Auerbach, all check-shirt Americana and pomp, is the owner of one of the sweetest blues voices in popular music today, while his cohort Carney cuts an unconventional gangly presence behind his kit, refusing to play standard beats but instead uses his instrument as a lead at the forefront of the mix. Jack and Meg White this ain’t.
The first few songs from their set was comprised entirely from material from their first few albums with ‘The Breaks’ from their 2002 debut The Big Come Up mingling with the likes of ’10 AM’, ‘Automatic’ and ‘Girl Is On My Mind’ from Rubber Factory as the band embraced their raw drums n’ distorted guitar identity which has characterised the majority of their existence thus far. Before
too long, however, Auerbach introduced a couple of ‘friends’ to take up stations behind a keyboard and bass, which meant it was time for something from Brothers, the first album in the Black Keys discography to feature bass prominently.
The now four-piece began this section of the set with album opener ‘Everlasting Light’, giving Auerbach a chance to showcase his impressive falsetto, as well as highlights ‘Tighten Up’, ‘Ten Cent Pistol’ and ‘She’s Long Gone’. Soon, the ‘friends’ retreated to the wings and the original Black Keys line-up was restored and they closed as they began; loud, fast and heavy. It’s been a big 2010 for The Black Keys. Album of the year? Maybe. Gig of the year? Probably.
Photos: Sean Conroy