In yesterday’s Lollapalooza battle of America vs. England, young vs. old and Black vs. Black, the Black Keys knew their strengths.
Fellow headliners Black Sabbath were going to attract festival-goers looking to have their faces melted off by Ozzy and the rest of the heavy metal gods. The Keys, on the other hand, captivated the college-aged masses looking for a few familiar tunes and rock’n’roll they could alternately dance and sway to. Tracks off the band’s latest – and biggest – album, El Camino, fueled the crowd, who were undoubtedly exhausted from the day and its insane temperatures. But tiredness was the last thing from fans’ minds as they twisted and shouted to “Gold on the Ceiling” and “Lonely Boy,” as well as Brothers breakout single “Tighten Up.”
The 19-song show, and the band’s ongoing tour behind 2011’s El Camino, was a balancing act of sorts. How can a rock band that’s recently ascended to the heights of fame through a slick new sound (hello, producer Danger Mouse!) still incorporate their blues roots? Luckily, the show’s middle portion was dominated by favorites from the Ohio-bred duo’s first three albums, including “Girl Is On My Mind, ” “I’ll Be You Man” and “Thickfreakness.” Guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney took their time on these old chestnuts, riffing to the point that it felt almost like fans were viewing a private jam session between the childhood neighbors.
Snap back into El Camino mode. A country-fied “Little Black Submarines” leads into the sultry sounds of “Money Maker,” which is quickly accompanied by fireworks blasting off behind the stage. In that moment, with Bud Light cans strewn about this Midwest park and frat boys losing their minds, it felt like some strange portrait of American culture. The Keys are, after all, America’s most successful solidly rock band of the last year – a streak no-doubt fueled by the act’s insane amounts of touring. When we caught up with Carney backstage before the set, he said the Black Keys will add more tour dates into 2013 before taking a well-earned break before diving back into new music.
Besides the old songs, there are other touches of their roots. Rest belt imagery – shots of highways, country houses, water towers – is incorporated into the videos that flash behind the band on stage. These are Midwest boys done right, make no mistake about it. They kicked off festival season with a headlining Coachella gig back in April, and they’ll end it in October by headlining Austin City Limits. But right smack-dab in the middle of it, they owned Lollapalooza, the quintessential Midwest music fest.
The Black Keys’ Lollapalooza Setlist:
“Howlin’ For You”
“Run Right Back”
“Same Old Thing”
“Dead and Gone”
“Gold on the Ceiling”
“Girl Is On My Mind”
“I’ll Be Your Man”
“Little Black Submarines”
“I Got Mine”
– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local; photos by Jason Shaltz