(Photo Credit: Jim Herrington)
While my Yahoo news feed shares important articles, Google’s is filled with gossip and trivial content. Looking at it today, I see something about Shina Inu, defending “a thunderously stupid sci-fi mystery thriller,” and Jennifer Lawrence’s breezy sundress. Other often-seen subject matters are food, the NBA, and travel destinations. Yesterday, the post that got my attention was a review of The Black Keys show in Boston.
In a Boston Globe article written by Marc Hirsh, he states in the first paragraph:
There are times when it’s hard not to suspect that a band is touring in support of an album that they simply don’t believe in. Take the Black Keys. May’s “Dropout Boogie” is already slight enough — a little shy of 35 minutes, the band’s shortest — to suggest that they ran out of ideas sooner than normal.
He goes on to write, “Friday’s concert offered the spectacle of a band becoming a nostalgia act in real time,” “the extra musicians there simply to fill out the sound rather than make the songs more intricate or layered,” and “it would have be more exciting if they turned their eyes a bit more from the rearview to the road they’re on.” His compliments were backhanded as he wrote, “it was a smooth enough ride” and “at least [they] never became too self-indulgent” directly after calling them a nostalgia act.
Ouch! Thanks for sharing your honest opinion, Marc.
Sometimes, I feel as if I am the antithesis of music reviews. Although I do not always love what I am writing about, I try to find positive things to say. Bringing a negative attitude to critiquing another person’s, artist’s, or band’s work does not make it more genuine or valid. Critiques are merely opinions, and sometimes they are hurtful. Think about it, Marc. Does writing “that they ran out of ideas sooner than normal” make you feel good? How do you expect the band and its fans to take the nostalgia act comment?
The Black Keys outside of Philly
On Saturday, my wife and I went with another couple to see The Black Keys at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion in Camden, New Jersey. Although my first time there, I had been to more than a handful of outdoor venues. Polaris of Westerville, Ohio, later becoming Germain Amphitheater, was my “home turf.” I saw many shows there, including one that Nine Inch Nails opened for David Bowie and one of my all-time favorite Phish shows. (I’ll have to write about the experience sometime, but check out the 7/31/98 show here for now.) I’ve been to Blossom in Cleveland, Verizon Wireless in Noblesville, Indiana, and Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin, to name a few. Walking to The Black Keys show, a nostalgic excitement hit me, a comfortable feeling I had not felt in a long time.
Sitting on the lawn after the first two bands, I watched the crowd. There were adults and teenagers, couples and groups. The sun was up, and a couple of fans were already stumbling around. The atmosphere was mellow and tame. Then, a video popped up on the screen. A man who looked like David Cross warned us about The Black Keys and chastised any parents who brought their children. Immediately before they came on, he asked us to stand in defiance. Everyone cheered; the band came on, and the show started.
No More Spoilers
Calm intensity is how I would describe the show. And nearly perfect. I danced throughout the night and spent a decent amount of time watching the screen. Marc Hirsh was correct in saying that Dan Auerbach was even-keeled and unruffled. In fact, I commented to my wife that he and Patrick Carney seemed focused and serious. Yet, that’s not bad. The Black Keys are musicians. They are not performers like Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, or Anderson .Paak. The music did the speaking. Anything else would have been a distraction.
My Marc Hirsh Rebuttal
Since seeing the article, I have thought about the Camden (Philly) show a lot. It was one of the musically cleanest shows I have ever been to. The band was professional and well-paced. Because I am a fan of basketball, I will use a comparison. People love March Madness because college players go a thousand miles per hour every second of the game. Fans who do not understand the NBA criticize it for the long season and slow, drawn-out games. They have playoff series, and teams need to be calm, calculated, and patient. Players and coaches know they cannot win a series with one good performance. They are professionals and know their game is different.
Professional musicians are similar. They are skilled, practiced, and know the tour is long. I love Primus for it. And Radiohead. The Black Keys are right there with them.
This leads me to their setlist, the biggest complaint of Marc Hirsh. He called the band a nostalgia act, suggesting the concert was a “best of” show. However, let me share my thoughts. COVID affected the music industry greatly. While bands could still produce music, they could not physically get out to see their fans. In fact, during the past seven years, the band has only done two tours, one in 2015 and another in 2019. When fans get the opportunity to hear the band, they want to hear everything. Playing songs that bridged their career does not constitute a nostalgia act. EVERY band I have ever heard does it. The only musician I am aware of who did not was Miles Davis. The Black Keys played at least one song from eight albums, with the heavy lifting coming from El Camino, Dropout Boogie, and Brothers. So what they only played three songs from Dropout Boogie; the fans got what they paid for. After COVID and not playing in front of an audience for a while, The Black Keys had every right to play whatever they felt.
Final Thought: This show was the most mellow live show I’ve seen since . . . maybe ever. I appreciated it for everything it was: A showcase of musical talent.