The Black Keys, Manchester Academy 06/07/2010

July 15, 2010 by  

Family – it’s what connects us and it’s who we share our experiences with. Sometimes members go their separate ways for a while but it’s this time away that helps them to realise how good they are as one entity.

Ohio’s Black Keys know all about family, having been together as a guitar and drum blues rock duo for a ten years. From small beginnings they have arguably single handedly refashioned an old genre that was destined to be forgotten into something invigoratingly fresh and current. Granted they did come around at the time when a certain brother sister duo made their mark on the music scene, but the White Stripes have since gone onto separate projects – this is true as far as Jack is concerned with his meanders with Raconteurs and currently the Dead Weather – and it’s not known when a new White Stripes album will come out. This makes the Black Keys the only true blues guitar drum based duo at large.

Their albums, each one exploring different musical styles, have thrilled and impressed in equal measure, but it’s really on the live circuit that this duo really come into their own. You only have to look around at a packed Academy 1 to realise how popular the band are. So much so that due to a sellout they have announced further dates next year.

It is appropriate that their current release is titled ‘Brothers’, considering that what makes their unique sound is themselves as a pair. Their new album pretty much encapsulates the musical journey that the two of them have been through, combining a bit of the old psychedelic blues sound and a new soul direction.

Despite their sojourns into solo efforts and collaborations they have always remained the Black Keys. This is evident tonight as they rifle through a blistering set of old blues stompers, psychedelic twists and turns, and new soul smoothers. They serve up a mindblowing concoction of old material with the new. ’10am Automatic’ from their early days still retains that sense of urgency it had when it was first released and there is no better way to start the set. The tunes come thick and fast, with ‘Every Lasting Light’ heralding their new soul direction, before a few tracks from their last album with Danger Mouse, Strange Times. ‘I got Mine’ and the excellent ‘Same Old Thing’ benefit from the addictive basslines. Newie ‘Chop and Change’, the excellent bluesy soul sounds of ‘Ten Cent Pistol’ as well as album teaser ‘Tighten Up’ are funky numbers that add even more dimensions to the set. The yearning of ‘Too Afraid to Love You’ is epic blues at its best, whilst the scuzz blues of ’No Trust’ and Patrick Carney’s frenetic drumming combined with the bluesy vocal scrawl of ‘Your Touch’ still sounds fresh.

Another stand-out from their set is ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, which showcases the bands new direction at its best. There are just too many highlights tonight and the band really has to be experienced live to understand how great they are. The band manage to switch from blues to soul styles effortlessly, balancing the soft with the loud, and only seem to catch a breath when the lights change for the numbers.

As the end of their set draws to a close, Dan Auerbach states they will play a couple more tracks. In fact the encore comprises of three tracks, which includes one of their very first singles, ‘The Breaks’, which first brought them to the music scene’s attention, and the fantastic ‘Til I get my Way’ from their third album ‘Rubber Factory’, which is an absolute classic.

Tonight really sums up what the Black Keys are about; no holds barred blues rock and soul combined with a boundless energy. They might not be too bad apart, but its when the band come together that they really shine.


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