Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Black Keys @ Barclays Center

The Black Keys; Cage the Elephant
@ Barclays Center
September 24, 2014

It is somewhat still of a mystery why of all the rusty garage bands who came from the Midwest in the dawn of the 21st Century, the Black Keys would become the biggest arena rock act of their generation (or at least among their peers in their generation). They've changed their sound over the years only in that the rust has been traded in for slightly more polish but that does not mean there was any intention to tap into what actually makes for profit in modern music sounds. There is really no explanation why the Black Keys' second chapter - one of funky soul and occasionally acid blues -  would translate to being arena headliners.

But here we are. With extra band members and a big production value. We're a long way from the $5 plate of perogies at the Polish National Home in Greenpoint. But that's old news by now. We are fully in the midst of the Black Keys as POPULAR. So it figures most of the set would be later half hits (actual, bona fide hits in the true sense of the money making word, including gems like "Lonely Boy", "Gold on the Ceiling", and the recent "Fever"). But look out - there was "Your Touch" from the days when the turn was being made and "Leavin' Trunk" from the very beginning, giving a lesson to tens of thousands what it used to be like. (Dan said the first album was from 10 years ago, maybe older - and older is right - and there was a brief painful flash of "are they trying to make themselves seem newer than they are?" and then I decided to get over myself)

And for all the car commercial success, this is still ultimately in the vein of the shows in front of dozens or hundreds or nobody way back when. A couple of quiet, introverted Midwest guys who like Delta mud and a hot lick. But they committed the great concert faux pas, the big no-no: the encore was slow ballad jam time. That might have been an artistic decision but it does feel like that comes with the territory of where the band finds itself these days. It's complicated. But it's OK - I still bought a shirt.

Cage the Elephant are Kentucky guys playing a range of rock with dashes of punk and classic arena aplenty. They had at least one hit several years ago (the "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" with the "money doesn't grow on trees and what have you) and I have reason to suspect they've had a hit or two since. In as much as rock is a hit machine anymore, this one, unlike the Black Keys, does make sense - Cage sounds like every good time rocker you know. And in a good way.


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