The Black Keys returned to Denver last night and took over the Pepsi Center for an hour of pop-infused rock and blues. The Black Keys have rocketed from playing small clubs to playing arenas in the past couple of years, mostly driven by the highly deserved success of their 2010 album Brothers. There's a lot to be said about where they fit into the music landscape today and what it means when a band that's been under the radar for so long suddenly sells out arenas, especially in today's fractured industry. The band itself can even serve as a case-study for what is or isn't cool.
But when the duo gets going, when they're really in the groove and playing with the kind of force only possible in those rare moments when music becomes some kind of truth, none of that matters. So instead, here are seven thoughts we had while watching Patrick Carney pound the drums and Dan Auerbach wield the guitar and croon about past and future loves.
See also: The Ten Best Jazz Guitarists
Dan Auerbach might be better at playing the acoustic guitar than the electric
There's no debating Auerbach's talent. But you can make a guitar do a whole lot of things without trying that hard if you have pedals and switches and a pile of amps behind you providing reverb. When it's just your fingers and the metal strings, like it was for Auerbach during "Little Black Submarines," that's when true talent shines. Everyone's seen him writhe around playing impressive solos. But when he's finger-picking with control and precision, a whole new Auerbach appears, and I want to know more about him.
They should release a single of their cover of Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You." It would sell a million copies
It was the raunchiest cover ever. Auerbach's vocals suit that song better than Collins' and he added some much-needed teeth with his guitar work. Throw that on FM in place of a Taylor Swift single and you'll have the biggest hit in the country.
Performing a song from their debut album, which came out twelve years ago, the Black Keys proved they haven't gone mainstream, the world has just finally caught up with them.
There's been more chatter than necessary about where the Black Keys stand: If they're past their prime or if they joined the world of contrived commercial music when they started winning Grammy's. It's all bullshit.When they played a track off an album from 2002, it was the same Black Keys you hear in 2014. Sure, they've gotten tighter and explored their sound, as musicians are wont to do, but they haven't conformed. They're the same rebellious boys with a blasting guitar and a loud as hell drum kit they've always been.
No one is more rock n' roll than the girl who danced half-naked the entire show.
Near stage-right there was a woman having a good time. Such a good time, in fact, that she felt the need to undress as she danced non-stop through the show. First her coat, then her sweater, and by the fifth song she was just in a bra and jeans. It was the ballsiest thing I've seen at a show in a long time, especially one with grandparents in attendance. I would make some judgement here, but honestly, she seemed to enjoy it all more than anyone.
Jake Bugg is an iconoclastic genius
Jake Bugg is just twenty and he looks sixteen. He's a kid with two albums out already and is set to conquer the world. From working class England this kid sings little songs about growing up in rough neighborhoods in the style of American folk and blues and is honestly amazing. It's hard to believe that much insight and talent is coming from a face so fresh, and the only way for him is up. Look him up and give him a listen, you won't be disappointed.
Patrick Carney might be a worse drummer than he used to be.
The last time I saw Carney behind a drumset, it was transformative. He played with furious passion nonstop through the band's set, his glasses flying off halfway, sweat pouring onto the drums constantly. It was wild and chaotic. Raw, manic energy. At the Pepsi Center, Carney sat calm, kept time quietly and let Auerbach take the lead. Either Carney no longer feel he's the true other half of the duo, or he just doesn't care. But it was boring and a disappointment.
"Howlin' For You" is the sexiest song in modern American music.
It's just the truth. Even Elvis would get turned on by Auerbach whispering "Baby, I'm howlin' for you" into the mic.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •
- 50 Photos That Prove Red Rocks Is the Most Beautiful Venue on the Planet
- Photos: Musicians Buying (Legal) Weed in Denver
- The Ten Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
- 50 Ways to Support Your DIY Music Community