OnlineRock Blog

28 April 2011

The Black Keys at Coachella, Friday April 15, 2011

By Cody Goodfellow

About four songs through the Black Keys' blistering Coachella set, something incredible accidentally happened. As they took the cavernous main stage and introduced themselves and their hometown, the gigantic video monitors flanking the stage had remained blank. As they swung into old favorites like "Thickfreakness" and "Girl Is On My Mind," it seemed like a brilliant way to shrug off their recent problems and let the music be their face as well as their voice. But then the monitors abruptly fired up, and the curtain was ripped away.

Dan Auerbach, looking terminally haggard from a crash course in living the blues, not-so-playfully ribbed drummer Patrick Carney by getting the audience to wish him happy birthday. A seething Patrick impatiently ripped into the backbeat for "Tighten Up." The same tensions in the band that give the music its vitality overran the music, if you looked at them. The back-and-forth on "Chop And Change" and Howling For You", with a weirdly lackluster drum solo, took on the feel of a passive-aggressive duel. Patrick stared fixedly at Dan throughout, his awkward, Gollum-like features an open book with jealousy and codependence rendered bigger than a billboard. The anonymous bassist and organist were tucked upstage like stepchildren at a family fight. It was hard not to see how much effort it still takes to hold onto the little slice of musical legendary they've won so far. Friction between talented artists makes good bands great, but the results are a lot easier to listen to, than they are to watch.

Poster credit: Tom Sanford


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