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Black Keys - Scala, London, 23/5/2006

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 23 / 6 / 2006

Black Keys - Scala, London, 23/5/2006


The Black Keys, while hardly household names, have been playing increasingly packed houses on both sides of the Atlantic. Anthony Dhanendran watches the Southern blues duo play a powerful set at the London Dcala

The Black Keys are an odd kind of band. They’re hardly household names, but their shows on this side of the Atlantic sell out with a fervour normally associated with acts several notches up the ladder. Musically, the duo plough a furrow that falls somewhere between the studied cool of the White Stripes and the decidedly un-hip 1970s rock of Free and Lynyrd Skynyrd. There’s no mistaking the genuine enthusiasm for the blues that Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney bring to their music, both live and on record. It seems they’re so into the idea of blues-rock that they don’t want to distill it any further as Jack White has successfully done, lest it lose some of its potency. While other Southern blues-rock bands – such as, say, the Immortal Lee County Killers – have attempted to get the blues back to its roots by making it more punk, a more earthy version of what we’re used to, the Black Keys have stayed true to their roots by playing a strictly down-the-line blues-rock that doesn’t so much hark back to the 1970's as entirely resemble the music of that decade. That’s no bad thing – the music isn’t derivative, it’s almost as though they’re a band dropped out from their era and into ours. The thousand-odd people packed like sardines into the Scala tonight would presumably concur. Auerbach has the authentic blues voice and both of them look the part. The stand-out tracks are ‘Girl is on My Mind’, on which the band turn up the soul, and ‘10AM Automatic’ but it’s hard to tell that from the audience’s reaction, which is totally focused on each and every song. The set list includes several tracks from their forthcoming fourth album 'Magic Potion' as well as chunks from the other records, including the 'Chulahoma' EP, which consists of tracks written by the late Junior Kimbrough. This is a band that knows what they’re doing, and, as with the White Stripes, the two-piece produce far more noise than it should be possible for two people to make. The difference, if we’re going to be critical, is that both halves of the Black Keys can play.

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Black Keys - Scala, London, 23/5/2006

Black Keys - Scala, London, 23/5/2006

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