You know you’ve made it into the big leagues when the mayor of the city introduces your set.That was the case for Friday’s Lollapalooza headliners The Black Keys. The recently mainstream rock duo performed with the gusto of their 10- plus years in the industry has made them.
Signifying the band’s aged status was their chemistry. Though accompanied by a full band for the majority of their set, vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney – the band’s two sole permanent members – asked their backup musicians to step back as the duo performed a set of oldies. The two musicians – the original and still Black Keys – wooed the audience and, depending on the song, drove them into a dancing frenzy. Their sound has become enriched in the way that only years of playing alongside another individual can produce. Both a rock-powerhouse and somehow intimate, the Black Keys showed the audience that they, despite borrowing obviously from blues and R&B, are truly something unique.
The Black keys are, in some sense of the term, an enigma. While they have found a unique sound amongst the polished garage bands populating the charts when they recorded their debut album, The Big Come Up, their music is a modernization of the many subcultures that made rock and roll unique throughout its history. The flawlessness of their musicianship during their live performances coupled with their chemistry is nothing unique to music, yet their live shows are one to remember despite lacking the intensity of fellow Lollapalooza-ers At the Drive-In. Finally, either most or least importantly, they were a rave amongst hipsters the same way that Naked Laser is – but they don’t suck. They are, simply, a great band that’s decade-plus of effort was worth the effort, both for them and us. This is why they embody rock and roll.
The Black Keys are not musicians in the way of classical, nor are they as original as hip-hop. Like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Santana, and every other one of their rock predecessors universally considered great, the Black Keys’ songs are a bastardization of the sounds that came before them. To boot, these are the sounds of music that have proven to work well – R&B, blues, hard rock, all of which have followings strung to respective bands as well as the genre itself. What sets the Black Keys apart, however, is that they have that same umph that sets the Strokes, the White Stripes, and the Hives apart from the mess of garage bands worldwide – they do what they do well.
Even the city of Chicago – including Rahm Emmanuel – agrees.