Never thought too much of The Black Keys was enough, but after a steamy New York affair of 3 shows in 2 days any fan might feel a bit puffed.
The Black Keys’ played Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 July at Summer Stage in Central Park, NYC. On Wednesday night after the Summer Stage show they completed a double header playing after midnight at Terminal 5. To see all the shows was a privilege.
These then are some rambling notes on those shows. It’s not a review. More fumbled reflections in the days after the nights before.
Summer Stage is a festival site, without being at a festival. The stage area is crowned by over-hanging trees. Dragon flies and butterflies flit in the dimming light.
Dan Johnson, Dan Auerbach’s guitar tech, calmly walks the stage preparing the instruments.
Gawd bless the American sense of personal space. It’s easy to squeeze in relatively close to the front of the stage. Each fan likes to be at least another body width away from the next. Odd, but welcomed.
You can buy like 10 beers at once and they even give you a tray to carry them with. Should be enough to last the show, it is broiling hot after all. Too bad each beer costs $7 each.
The sample of GZA’s “Liquid Swords” used to herald The Black Keys’ arrival on stage is inspired. A good heads up before the cheers of the crowd start a surge of excitement that ripples through all.
A different set list is played for each show. The three shows build upon themselves in tempo and reaction to the crowds and venue.
Pat plays the first song of each set with his glasses on. From then on, glasses removed, he never again cares to look at the drums.
Dan switched between his Rickenbacker, Harmony and Supro guitars.
The Wednesday show at Summer Stage for some reason is more intense than the Tuesday. The crowd is much more demonstrative.
Tuesday the band break down the tempo and jam, groovin’ through the mid-tempo numbers, where as the Wednesday shows increase intensity and offer a harder/faster dynamic.
At times it looks like Pat is playing jazz licks on his symbols on the slower grooves, just pacing time waiting for the next moment to smash another stick.
The Black Keys are like a New York Hot Dog – they keep their schtick at street level; they don’t pretend to be what they aint; every now and then they change up with a little sauerkraut or extra sauce to keep things fresh.
The Black Keys’ have no groupies. All the fans are rounded up and shooed away at Summer Stage. No one tries to hang back. A Security guy says there were heaps of Groupies for The Flaming Lips the night before.
The Security guy also says the guy who sweeps up all the beer cans at the end of the shows a while back used to be real quick – so many cans, means good money for a dude with a crack habit.
The Summer Stage shows are probably the first/last Black Keys’ shows you’ll ever receive free Zinc pure coconut water with pomegranate berry as you leave the venue.
Jumping a cab to Terminal 5 and being dropped off on a freeway, because the cabbie has no idea where the venue is and doesn’t care, is a perfect NY kiss off. He must like us in a NYC kinda way.
Terminal 5 is a bunker, proper heavy concrete in contrast to the light green leaves of Central Park. Walk inside and it’s a cauldron. Fans hanging from the three levels. The floor-bound fans pressing forward – gone all principles of personal space.
The crowd is so ravenous at Terminal 5. The only way forward for The Black Keys is to seemingly meet the energy, draw from it and re-present it to the fans. They do so.
Dan Johnson still seems calm. Different drum kit set up. Any problem with any gear is dealt to with a fast-paced walk, never a run.
I’m not sure how Dan and Pat are feeling after coming off stage at Terminal 5, their bodies no doubt sapped but hearts’ aglow. 13,000 fans in 2 nights sated.
The band are in such a groove that every show has seemed so dialled in to the moment; it’s clinical but not by rote.
You know you are getting somewhere when the NY Times does a review and photo of your show for the Arts section the day after. Equally, Time Out had a double page spread the previous week.
It’s not all downhill from here, but it’s certainly not going to be as uphill for The Black Keys.