Black Keys
"May 16, 2008"

For a band that originally stuck out in a crowded music scene with their soulful spin on a classic blues inspired sound, things sure have changed for Akron, Ohio's Black Keys. Minimalism has been one of the band's key components, whether it was their relatively simple music videos, the hand-drawn logo on the bass drum or their basic 2-man, guitar and drums set up. But as fans at The Black Key's Friday, May 16th show in Philadelphia found out, things may not be so cut and dry.

The first tip-off to the changes should have been that the gig was moved from South Street's TLA to the much larger Electric Factory. A switch which added more tickets, reflecting the band's high demand, and promptly sold out in advance.

The Black Keys' openers and fellow Ohioans Buffalo Killers offered up mellow rock tunes heavily indebted to Grand Funk Railroad. By the time The Black Keys' set rolled around, the additional set up of numerous strobe and lighting effects along with a huge inflatable tire emblazoned with the band's name made their debut, it was clear this would be anything but a minimalist show.

While The Black Keys, or the Buffalo Killers for that matter, can't be blamed completely for their less than perfect sound -- the old warehouse swallows much of it up -- the headliners sounded crisper and far more enthusiastic than the recorded versions of their songs. Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach pogoed all over the stage whenever his songs didn't require him at his mic stand while drummer Patrick Carney brutally bashed his kit. And it didn't take long, only a few crowd-pleasing tunes, before a fan was hoisted up to crowd surf and the marijuana started wafting through the venue.

Had The Black Keys remained at the smaller, relatively more intimate TLA, their show would have had a distinctly different tone and atmosphere. Judging by their stage props that may not be the vibe they were going for. But for a band known for their careful blues-inspired melodies, The Black Keys in Philly seemed less like the band that covered Junior Kimbrough and more akin to the one whose songs have been favorites for TV commercials the last few years.