Following last Friday’s Black Keys’ show a concert that blew away my rather low expectations — I really only wanted to hear the song that goes “la-la-la la/la-la-la la” and the one with the “oh whoa uh-oh” chorus — my first thought was “I’m going to stick it to Josiah Hughes and his rather low estimation of this band.
Re-reading his comments in this week’s “Goings On” column I’m not as sure I have as strong a leg to stand on as I did Friday night.
Hughes is right: The Black Keys have been mining the same aesthetic territory for their whole career. Sure they occasionally flush things out with expanded instrumentation — keyboards strings the odd tambourine — but at its core it’s a very tried and true variation of the same old blues rock shuffle that’s been stirring/boring audiences — depending on their disposition — for a half-century now.
I’ll also concede Hughes’ point that the Key’s roots-soaked reverb is no more “authentic” than the generic post-grunge power chords of Nickelback. In fact arena rock regardless of the reverence it may pay to traditional forms of music has never been anything but a borrowed cultural affectation (an enjoyable one but still…).
Really then I have no truck with any of the statements made in Goings On; yet something transcendent happened on Friday night I wouldn’t have predicted — I went from a being a rather blasé observer to full on fan.
The reason? Expertly crafted hooky songs gliding atop a solid backbeat and given lift by fat funky licks. Throw in the roar of a vocally appreciative sold-out crowd and top it off with a giant disco ball (I’m a sucker for that stuff… the way it turned the ‘Dome into a giant prom during the ballad-y encore “Everlasting Light”…) and you’ve got…
Well you’ve got the same old shit that’s forever been getting people to flic their Bics on this seemingly never ending “Stairway to Heaven.”
Why does this stuff still work? Who knows? But having a traditional rock show in 2012 give as much of a jolt as one in ’72 (or ’82 ’92 etc.) felt something akin to magic.
Then again what do I know? I actually like — to borrow a phrase from my colleague — “ dad-approved rock .”