The Black Keys at 1STBANK Center, with the Arctic Monkeys, 4/30/12

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Eric Gruneisen
Patrick Carney of the Black Keys last night at 1STBANK Center. More photos: Black Keys in Denver.


THE BLACK KEYS @ 1STBANK CENTER

See Also:
Slide show: Black Keys at the 1STBANK Center
Slide show: Black Keys at Fillmore, 6/3/10
Q&A with Nick O'Malley of Arctic Monkeys
The Black Keys at Fox Theatre, 7/20/09

A clear sign that shit is about to get real: Patrick Carney takes off his glasses and gets straight to it. The lanky drummer towered over both his kit and his audience last night as he calmly skirted the stage, sat down, removed his Buddy Holly frames and got right the hell to it. He did not stop until it was over. Accompanied by fiery, fervid crooner Dan Auerbach, the guys are a no-frills, no-fuss, no-nonsense and no-breaks mirage straight out of the desert of daytime radio rock -- as if a hole in space and time had opened up only to dump two rowdy retro-rockers into the year 2012. Another good sign: When Carney pounds his kit so hard, it starts to emit smoke.

But when it happens, when the friction created by Carney's raucous rhythms generated a brief but distressing puff of grey, it seems to alarm precisely no one. Before the issue was even documented or solved, it was old news, smothered in the waves of rock coming from the stage's two core members and four extra hands: bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist John Wood.

"Good evening, Denver," Auerbach announced quickly. "Let's get it started."

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Eric Gruneisen
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys last night at 1STBANK Center. More photos: Black Keys in Denver.

And by "it," he meant sweat-breaking, rump-shaking, throat-burning arena rock that nods, not winks, at old-era greats. Think retrospective, not retroactive. The band corners its dynamic neo-soul influence on lusty lyrics and an infallibly smooth progression of guitar and drums that, when expertly combined, could make babies. Backed by gritty, Super 8-style stretches of black-and-white scenes, the guys reek of long nights and spaghetti Westerns, but ultimately need neither.

While bombastic hits like opener "Howlin' for You" and "Gold on the Ceiling" benefit from the blow-out of strobe lights and a double-headed bass, the Black Keys find their deepest groove in moments of quarantine. During "Thickfreakness" and its immediate followers, the guys quietly dismissed their backup, settled into the spotlight and bared their basics, returning to their origin story: Two dudes who cause way more of a ruckus than that number should ever be expected to create. Throughout a set that pulled heavily from 2010's Brothers and 2011's El Camino, the two Akron, Ohio, natives outed their women and their issues inside a stadium they made sound like a garage.

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Eric Gruneisen
The Black Keys last night at 1STBANK Center. More photos: Black Keys in Denver.

Although the duo's energy is split evenly between them, the chemistry can be traced directly to Auerbach, who riffs and reacts to Carney's set while his partner hits hard and then harder and his neck muscles appear more and more strained. Even at their most basic level, just two dudes and two instruments, the guys overwhelmed the arena with their ruckus, mixing the magnetic mojo of jukebox country with the oversized energy of a show so popular an extra date was added.

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Eric Gruneisen
The Black Keys last night at 1STBANK Center. More photos: Black Keys in Denver.

Black Keys fans are enthusiastic and unruly, dressed in T-shirts and jeans that they can move in with hair that moves on its own. During ballads, like the Clapton-esque "Little Black Submarines," they look at each other for confirmation, and if they are in the front, they glance back at a swarming mass of bodies. When the electric guitar slams into its soft intro, they seem surprised anew, even though they probably listened to it in the car on the way over. When Auerbach sings any of the band's angsty, loutish lyrics, they know who "she" is and who "you" are, even if they don't really know at all. "She" did this to all of them, and "you" never really were good for them, not even at the beginning. They dance a little awkwardly, and they clap a little off-beat, and they get really sweaty.

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Eric Grunesien
The Black Keys last night at 1STBANK Center. More photos: Black Keys in Denver.

The Black Keys do not have sweat stains. They have dry stains. In less time than it takes to deduce what colors their shirts started as, both men had moved so deep into their blunt back catalogue that they had effectively taken their own personal showers on stage. This, as everyone knows, is the ultimate test of a good show, because if its creators are working this hard, their audience is noticing. After shutting down synapses with the three-hit punch of "Ten-Cent Pistol," "Tighten Up" and "Lonely Boy," Carney and Auerbach took their first and only break, leaving the stage for exactly the amount of time it took to lower a Pluto-sized disco ball.

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Eric Gruneisen
The Black Keys last night at 1STBANK Center.

As the silver sphere reflected blue and gold lights across thousands of faces, they slowed the show down to a lullaby -- never a lull -- while Auerbach lilted the falsetto lines of "Everlasting Light." And when, two songs later, they reached their end, the guys shone a different light altogether: Behind them, spelled out in illuminated letters taller than Carney, "THE BLACK KEYS" blinked from the backdrop as the duo blasted the explosive drums and eerie riff of "I Got Mine." Translate the song's lyrics however you'd like, but in that moment, years after playing the Lion's Lair, they got theirs.

Click through for the setlist, Critic's Notebook, additional photos and a review of Arctic Monkeys' set

Location Info

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1STBANK Center

11450 Broomfield Lane, Broomfield, CO

Category: Music

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3 comments
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Mauricio O. Rocha
Mauricio O. Rocha

You captured the show so well, Kelsey. I went on day 2 and you describe it just how it was, even the suited roadies. Props to you!

Terrycart
Terrycart

I really don't know too much about this band, but the arena scenes look great.

Cougar
Cougar

 

Age ain't nothingbut a number for these loved-up A-Listers. My BF and I both think so! I am almost10 years older than him. We met via ~~Cougarlove .COM~~ a nice place for older women and youngermen, to interact with each other! Maybe you wanna check it out or tell yourfriends :)

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