Review: The Black Keys in Wellington

BLUES BROTHERSs: Patrick Carney, left, and Dan Auerbach, right, play at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington.
BLUES BROTHERSs: Patrick Carney, left, and Dan Auerbach, right, play at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington.

The Black Keys

TSB Bank Arena, Wellington, November 5

Reviewed by Simon Sweetman

The Black Keys now appear to have two sets of fans – those on board recently for the hip-sashaying pop tunes of El Camino and some of the soul-inflected material from Brothers and the die-hards from day one who prefer the retro-rock and blues-tinged duo material.

Patrick Carney (drums) and Dan Auerbach (guitar/vocals) do their best now to serve two masters, offering most of the set as a four-piece band, augmented by bass and keyboards (with occasional rhythm guitar parts also). And the move to the big stage should bring with it some level of pride for fans who have seen this band in much smaller venues. But it is hard for The Black Keys to reconcile their two sets of sounds live.

The breakaway mini-set of older songs featuring just Carney and Auerbach was a delight – that raw, primal blues howl piercing through. The fuzzy drench of guitar (overdone but occasionally as exciting as the first time you heard The Black Keys) and the reliable boom-bap-bash of the drums; it very quickly became predictable. There would be a riff. That was certain. Then a groove.

The guitar solos felt like they were being paraded – Auerbach engaging in a cutting heads contest with himself, then wanting to show the head, removed from the stump of the song, to young and old in the crowd.

The problem with The Black Keys now is that they're too big, too popular. It's a strange curse but it means they can no longer perfectly showcase the obvious strengths. The duo's winning performance style now feels like any other Queens of the Stone Age/White Stripes/Crooked Vultures guitar band sound.

Where once it was about the conversation between Carney and Auerbach – and we could see it and were made to feel part of it, and of course we could hear it – now it's almost a pantomime.

There were moments that reminded of how effortless it all can be for this group. I wish them every success with their future endeavours too. Ultimately, for this fan, the concert felt like a break-up date.

The Dominion Post