Show Review: The Black Keys brought rock declaration to packed arena show

All these years later, The Black Keys still shred, still rock, still like to get weird. The powerhouse Akron, OH duo is packing arenas around the country on the ‘Let’s Rock’ Tour with fans of all ages and stopped through Phoenix over the weekend to command the stage. 

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Shannon and the Clams brought an interesting doo-wop element to the bill, fusing the sounds of 60s oldies with 80s punk. As a quartet, the comparisons to girl groups of decades past are well-founded, but adding in garage rock sensibilities has given them an edge for the past ten years of their career. They also caught the ear of Dan Auerbach and released last year’s Onion on his Easy Eye Sound label, no doubt part of the reason they’re on the tour. And though the venue was far from full, the attendees who arrived early watched this indie scene highlight with curiosity and intrigue.

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The volume cranked way up for Modest Mouse, whose deafening riffs and instrumental cacophony masked the spirit of many of their songs as they made their way through deep cuts and singles alike. With two drummers, a multi-instrument percussionist, multiple guitarists and bassists, even a distinct voice like Isaac Brock’s would struggle to compete, but all the sounds seemed to settle into place for key portions of the set. 

Modest Mouse became household names on the backs of “Float On” and, arguably, “Missed the Boat,” which they played back-to-back as the crowd eagerly sang along. If nothing else, it was a reminder of radio serving its purpose by creating fans from just a couple of songs.

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The same can certainly be said about The Black Keys, whose most recognized songs on Saturday night were “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Howlin’ for You,” and “Lonely Boy.” We know it, they know it, and they prepared appropriately with added flair. A light-up marquee sign bearing their name dropped down throughout the set, and old movie style gold lights blinded the crowd. All the while, Patrick Carney pounded the drums with everything he had, and Auerbach got lost in a trance between the strings of his guitar.

But The Black Keys couldn’t forget their roots. In a rare moment of addressing the crowd, Dan Auerbach muttered, “Let’s go down to the basement” before playing “Thickfreakness” and again before “Ten Cent Pistol.” Instrumental solos gave a glimpse into the pre-radio weird Black Keys who were key to the revival of blues rock’s popularity, even if they didn’t quite resonate with the casual fans. 

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Twenty-one songs and 90+ minutes of music later, the crowd was still yelling for more—they took the declaration of “Let’s Rock!” seriously, even though for many of them it meant being out way past their bedtime.     

Check out more photos from the show!
Story and photos by Taylor Gilliam

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