Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Live Review - The Black Keys / Arctic Monkeys @ MSG

In January of this year, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney told Rolling Stone, "Rock & roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world. So they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit – therefore you should never try to be the biggest rock band in the world. Fuck that! Rock & roll is the music I feel the most passionately about, and I don't like to see it fucking ruined and spoon-fed down our throats in this watered-down, post-grunge crap, horrendous shit. When people start lumping us into that kind of shit, it's like, ‘Fuck you,' honestly."

Over a month later, Foo Fighters Dave Grohl defended rock and roll at the Grammy® Awards and told everyone that music does not need to be perfect and needs to come from the heart. With Foo Fighters selling-out the world's most famous arena - Madison Square Garden in fall of 2011 and on Monday night, The Black Keys played the first of two sold-out shows at MSG, while Nickelback is struggling to sell-out the same venue when they play in a month from now speaks volumes. Carney was right and from that moment on, people have become more aware of what is being forced on their musical taste buds.

Opening with "Howlin' For You," The Black Keys immediately set a fire in the audience's hearts and with their thunderous playing and backed by a bassist and keyboardist / organ player, the bands sound filled out the famous arena without any issue. Standing front and center singer / guitarist Dan Auerbach was howling to the crowd as if his life depended on it. To his right was his long time companion and drummer, Patrick Carney who beat on his drums from start to finish, the way Rocky whaled on Ivan Drago. Standing in front of various screens and lights, The Black Keys usual bare-bones production was kicked up a notch. For the first half hour of their set, The Keys were in full form with their backing band. Then it was time to take it back-to-basics with just Carney and Auerbach performing; "Thick Freakness," "Girls on my Mind," I'll Be Your Man," and "Your Touch." While half of the band may have been on break, the main powerhouse of The Black Keys proved that with their style of early blues rock, garage and soul, its not strength in numbers, it is strength in skill and the power of playing.

With the 90-minutes The Keys were on stage, the guys from Akron, Ohio, who played the Garden before - opening for Pearl Jam in 2010, stood tall and proud by the shows end. After years of playing dive bars and clubs, their time has come and it could not be more welcomed. Seeing The Black Keys in concert is like driving the finest Mustang or Camaro - they are 100% pure American muscle.

Opening the gig or in many aspects it could be looked at as co-headlining were England's Arctic Monkeys. For the hour they were on stage, they not only delivered one of the best performances of their career but also had the difficult job of warming up a dull New York crowd. Dressed as the cast of The Wild One, they opened with "Brianstorm" and "This House is a Circus," singer Alex Turner, looking like Elvis these days with his new pompadour haircut, spoke to crowd and said "Madison Square G! We are the Arctic Monkeys from Sheffield, England! Are you excited for The Black Keys?!" With the crowd hardly responding, Turner would then respond and say, "Wake the fuck up!" It was hard hitting hit after hard hitting hit during The Monkeys performance. Turner has become rather suave on stage and seemed to enjoy playing at the venue as he danced around, got to his knees to play his guitar and ran around like the great frontman he is, he commanded that stage. Deeper into the performance, you could see the Garden filling up and more and more people turned onto what they were doing. In a set that included all their hits, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," "Cryin' Lightening," "Brick by Brick," and "Florescent Adolescent," Arctic Monkeys proved they have the chops to even headline MSG themselves one day. Sounding pitch perfect, they even dug deep in their catalogue and played "She's Thunderstorms," "Evil Twin," and "Still Take You Home," the band even closed with the new single, "R U Mine." With two bands with this much high octane power, if anyone was ever afraid or even quested that rock was dead, they were your answer.

Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys
The Black Keys 3/12/12 Madison Square Garden Set List:
Howlin' for You
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Dead and Gone
Gold on the Ceiling
Girl Is On My Mind
I'll Be Your Man
Your Touch
Little Black Submarines
Money Maker
Strange Times
Chop and Change
Nova Baby
Ten Cent Pistol
Tighten Up
Lonely Boy

Everlasting Light
She's Long Gone
I Got Mine

Arctic Monkeys 3/12/12 MSG Set List:
This House Is a Circus
Still Take You Home
Library Pictures
Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair
The View from the Afternoon
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Pretty Visitors
Teddy Picker
Crying Lightning
She's Thunderstorms
Fluorescent Adolescent
If You Were There, Beware
Evil Twin
Brick by Brick
R U Mine?

**Photos by correspondent Le-La Cloutier.

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