Words by James Farrell | Photo by Joe Papeo

There was a rowdy audience at TD Garden in Boston this past Sunday night. That much was evident from the wild cheering that followed Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys as they took the stage. Accompanied by Richard Swift and John Clement Wood (bass and keyboard, respectively), the band was following an exciting performance by Cage the Elephant that had left us all craving more.

Carney honored this craving, launching into the bombastic drum intro of opening song, “Dead and Gone.” The rest of the band jumped in, led by Auerbach’s fuzzy guitar and even fuzzier vocals. It was a formula that could be loosely applied to many of the songs that followed, yet somehow, it never got old. I guess that’s sort of the true essence of good, old-fashioned, bluesy rock-n-roll.

And that is exactly what the Black Keys brought to the Boston stage. With sloppiness that channeled energy and explosiveness that channeled nostalgia, the band quickly tore through an 18-song set that harkened back to the days when electric guitars and the blues ruled the world. It was a time before smartphones and social media, and the audience had evidently gotten the memo. The all too common concert sight of smartphone cameras pointed towards the stage was graciously absent. Everyone was too busy dancing.

Of course, nostalgia wasn’t the only energy flowing. Beyond the fact that the band is, in its own right, an exciting and distorted twist on the traditions of blues-rock, the Turn Blue tour is a celebration of a new album of the same name. This album experiments with vibes different from much of the band’s earlier stuff, often bordering on psychedelia. However, you wouldn’t have even known that they had a new album until thirteen songs in. The first three quarters of their set consisted of selections from albums as recent as El Camino (2011) and as far back as The Big Come Up (2002).

The band covered their bases with popular hits “Gold on the Ceiling,” and “Tighten Up,” but also dug a little deeper with “Leavin’ Trunk,” and “Run Right Back.” It wasn’t until “Gotta Get Away,” that Turn Blue made an appearance. After a potentially too short set that paid off with a dance-a-long rendition of “Lonely Boy,” the band came on for an encore of two trippy Turn Blue songs: “The Weight of Love,” and the album’s title track. They closed the night with the Zeppelin-esque “Little Black Submarines” from El Camino, which allowed them to finish on a more dynamic and frenetic note in contrast to the two mellower songs before it.

Throughout the night, the band’s minimalist stage set-up became increasingly complex. They began playing in front of a vast curtain that seemed to dwarf the four-piece in the middle of the stage, leaving seemingly unfillable spaces on either side. When the curtain came down during a raucous “Same Old Thing,” it revealed a complex system of industrial-looking lights that brought a sense of spatial fullness.

During the Turn Blue encore, a second curtain rose behind the lights to reveal a spinning blue and purple spiral: a stage manifestation of the new album’s cover. It was a perfect way to echo the Black Keys’ transition from the simple garage blues-rock of The Big Come Up to the more Pink Floydian experimental sounds of Turn Blue. Let’s hope that whatever’s next is just as much fun.

Setlist (Courtesy of Ted Faust):
Dead and Gone
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Gold on the Ceiling
Strange times
Nova Baby
Leavin’ Trunk
Too Afraid To Love You
Howlin’ For You
A Girl Like You (Edwyn Collins cover)
Money Maker
Gotta Get Away
She’s Long Gone
Tighten Up
Your Touch
Lonely Boy

Weight of Love
Turn Blue
Little Black Submarines


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