It has been a long and winding road for Akron, Ohio’s finest band to reach the heady heights of the Pyramid stage, Glastonbury. On the way, they have paid their dues through long years of touring (I first saw the Black Keys play at the now defunct London Astoria in front of a few hundred people) and indignities at the hands of an ex-wife* whose only redeeming feature from The Black Keys perspective, it seems. is that at least she isn’t as bad as Jack White**.
On a positive note, The Black Keys have continued to evolve as a band, from garage rock to blues to soul and a combination of all three through eight albums whilst expanding their band from a guitar and drums combo to introducing a full band along the way. Thankfully this strategy has proved highly successful with each album selling more than the last.
Latest album Turn Blue continues that artistic progression, straying once again from the path set by the hook-filled pop-fest of mega-selling previous record “El Camino”. Turn Blue is Floydian in places, soulful in others, but often reflective and always a joy.
Taking the support slot to Kasabian on a Sunday evening to a crowd whose afternoon hangover cure included an exuberant helping of Dolly Parton, The Black Keys retained their uncanny ability to build their set from a wealth of material to choose from. Every time they play a song, then then better it with the next, and when you start with material from your best-selling album, that’s quite a feat.
Crowd-pleaser “Gold On The Ceiling” got the crowd moving, and Carney blasted away at his disco-sparkly drum kit on “Run Right Back”. Auerbach then got to show his modern take on blues storytelling with the likes of “Ten Cent Pistol” and the boogie of “Howlin’ For You”.
Auerbach introduced “Strange Times” as an oldie, yet this was from their fifth album and shows how far this little blues band has come in recent records.
“She’s Gone” is a fantastic swampy blues song, showing The Black Keys at the riff-heavy and evocative best (sample lyric: “She’s gone / Like Moses through the corn”).
The set closed with the quadruple whammy of “Tighten Up”, “Fever”, “Lonely Boy” and “Little Black Submarine” – and that’s quite a bunch of tunes to be able to whip out at the end of any set.
* There’s a fascinating insight into what it is like to be married to a rock drummer from Patrick Carney’s ex-wife in an interview she gave a couple of years ago.
** Jack White’s personal emails came to light in his divorce from Karen Elson in which he appeared vexed that his kids might attend the same school as Dan Auerbach’s kids.