Live Review: The Black Keys at The Hollywood Palladium

The Black Keys play the blues
The Black Keys play the blues
Timothy Norris

[For more exclusive pictures of the show see Timothy Norris' slideshow "The Black Keys @ The Palladium".]

Out of the sweltering night air poured hundreds of Black Keys fans, who openly gasped in relief as soon as they got through the Hollywood Palladium's doors and into the cool dark of its ballroom. It's not often that a sold out concert is actually, literally cooler than the air outside, but last night was an exception. Well at least, it was until The Black Keys took the stage.

Opening for the Black Keys was a young lady in a black dress with a huge voice named Nicole Atkins . Her band looked great. The bearded drummer, the long haired bassist, and the lead guitarist, who wore a gold shimmering dress, suggested a band of carefree hippies who were there to rock your world. Only problem was, they weren't sure how to go about it.

They had all the right ingredients for a great Americana rock band: a lead singer whose lung capacity sounded like she could knock down a barn at forty paces, a guitarist whose guitar solos radiated sunshine through her fingers, and a rhythm section who firmly kept everything together.

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So what happened? There was no soul. The lyrics were neither cheeky nor sincere and therefore were left hanging on clichés that rang hollow despite the force with which they were delivered. It was the kind of set that would suit the background music in a sitcom: pleasant, but in no way distracting from the conversation of the main characters.

The Black Keys, however, would settle for nothing less than every ounce of your attention. When the two men from Akron, OH took the stage the sold out crowd screamed in adoration. After almost ten years together the blues rock duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have found long deserved commercial success with their sixth disc Brothers. Now that they have it, everyone wondered, would they still sound the same?

Good God, yes. Opening with an aircraft carrier sized guitar solo at the beginning of "Thickfreakness" Auerbach's guitar grabbed the crowd by the throat and refused to let go. The only thing that kept the riffs in line was Carney's drumming, which danced nimbly about like a lion tamer lovingly controlling his beast. In front of a giant poster of two hands clasped together the two blues brothers tore through a set that pleased both the purists and the newcomers.

The first half of the set felt like it was dedicated to their older fans with hits like "Girl Is On My Mind" and "10 am Automatic." Just two men making hot, dirty blues tunes that growled and crawled up with hips of every person in that place. Then the second half was dedicated to their new album, in which The Black Keys have branched out and added a bassist and a keyboardist on stage. Starting with "Everlasting Light" and blasting through "Next Girl," "Tighten Up," and "Howlin' For You" the Keys showed what they were capable of with four men on stage.

Now this may be heresy to the purists, but imagine what they could do with even more musicians and maybe a chorus. It's clear that they've got one of the baddest blues duos around right now, but look what they did with a little experimentation? One couldn't help but wonder if perhaps it's time for them to explore the possibility of a horn section.

The evening closed with a sparkling encore of "Your Touch" and "I Got Mine" leaving everyone howling for more despite the hour long set. If it had been up to the crowd, they those guys would have played until they had crumpled on the ground with exhaustion. Hopefully, they've got enough in them for another round at the Palladium tonight. Something tells me that they do.

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