The Black Keys
Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto
July 7, 2011
Nearly a year ago, Akron, OH duo the Black Keys played back-to-back nights at Toronto’s hangar-like Kool Haus. Now, they’ve made a significant step up by playing their first arena show at the Molson Amphitheatre. Shout out to the thousands of people who duly bypassed Honda Indy-related road closures to make it to the waterfront venue — despite the changes attributed to their exponential growth, the Black Keys are a band worth a trek.
Opening with dense, riff-heavy “Thickfreakness,” from 2003’s album of the same name, the Keys brought a gut punch of adrenaline that kicked off the show. Guitarist Dan Auerbach, who stomped and lurched around stage all night, teased out the end of “Girl Is on My Mind,” before the band moved into “The Breaks.” Another older song, “Stackshot Billy,” provided the night’s first real eye-opening moment: filling a stadium with raw, pacing garage rock was always the band’s intention. The later Keys records prove it, but this is where you could hear the inception.
“Busted Play” gave Patrick Carney a chance to work it out with a drum solo that got the audience completely riled up. As the lights came up during “Everlasting Light” to reveal a giant, winding disco ball and
three two backing band members, the show hit its stride. Here, in the middle, is where the Keys revealed the pop sensibility and full-bodied sound that’s brought them recent success. Still formally a duo, the Black Keys’ use of a band is a big upgrade, but it helped flesh out the musicality in songs like, “Next Girl,” Twilight-tune “Chop and Change,” “Howlin’ for You,” mega single “Tighten Up” and “She’s Long Gone.”
Minus the backing band, the final, intimate numbers began with gruff, trembling “I’ll Be Your Man.” Deliberately aggressive, it’s interesting to note just how much better and experiential the Keys’ sound is when it’s just Carney and Auerbach onstage. The twisted tempo on Attack & Release’s “Strange Times” and climbing stomp of “I Got Mine” closed the set, before an encore that included “Your Touch.”