The Black Keys electrify the Wells Fargo Center - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

It was 13 years ago when The Black Keys released Magic Potion, which would mark the last time they made an album as a relatively unknown broke-ass blues duo from the Midwest. That same year, they released an EP filled with cover songs originally written by an old, under-the-radar blues artist named Junior Kimbrough, who never quite became a household name, even in the world of blues. The sound of both these releases was scratchy and unpolished. In fact, it was a side of the blues spectrum that was completely opposite of commercially successful blues rock artists like ZZ Top and Joe Bonamassa, and it didn’t appeal to large swaths of people. In short, The Black Keys were the last band anybody would suspect to reach arena-level fame. But upon the release of Brothers in 2010, The Black Keys traversed that blues spectrum right into commercial territory. Surprisingly or not, they’ve managed stick the landing too. To this day, the band continues to headline 20,000-seat hockey arenas with naming rights held by financial institutions. Luckily for Philadelphia, we’ve got one of those. It’s called the Wells Fargo Center, and The Black Keys headlined it Monday night on the 17th date of their 31-stop 2019 North American Tour.

Going into the show, if you thought the Black Keys were going to stick exclusively to the more recent material, you would’ve been proven wrong from the get-go. The band opened with “I Got Mine” from 2003’s Thickfreakness before giving way to two new songs – “Eagle Birds” and “Tell Me Lies” – from their latest release, “Let’s Rock.” The new album is more or less a continuation of 2010s Black Keys. It’s glossier and more refined than the early stuff, has its share of single-worthy radio hits, and also has an allotment of spacey, T. Rex-ish after-hours material. I’ll be honest, I thought the “Let’s Rock” album name was stupid at first. That was, of course, until I read this bangin’ Phawker interview with drummer Patrick Carney, which sheds light on the fact that the words “let’s rock” were actually the last words of Edmund Zagorski, a Tennessee inmate who was convicted of murder and put to death via the electric chair by the Tennessee Department of Correction last November. The corresponding album art, which was designed in part by Philly’s own Perry Shall, fittingly features an electric chair surrounded by a pink outline.

But back to the show. Throughout the night, the band played more old tracks than some would expect, including “10 A.M. Automatic,” “Your Touch” and “Thickfreakness.” The set list lacked any semblance of a ballad, the sole exception being the first half of “Little Black Submarines,” which marked the main set’s penultimate number. After the band ended with “Lonely Boy,” they came back onstage to cap off the night with a three-song encore consisting of “Low/Hi,” “Go” and “She’s Long Gone.” For much of the night, the Keys’ shredder-in-chief and main songwriter Dan Auerbach forwent small talk with the audience. Instead, he let his guitar do the talking, oftentimes with ad-libbed solos and fills, which provided unique textures to the live versions of the tracks and boosted his street cred as one of rock’s best guitarists. More importantly, it got people dancing and kept them on their feet all night.

The show was opened by Modest Mouse and R&B artist Jessy Wilson, whose 2019 debut album, Phase, was produced by Carney.


I Got Mine
Eagle Birds
Tell Me Lies
Gold on the Ceiling
Next Girl
Fire Walk With Me
Walk Across the Water
Everlasting Light
Howlin’ for You
10 A.M. Automatic
Your Touch
Strange Times
Tighten Up
Ten Cent Pistol
Little Black Submarines
Lonely Boy

She’s Long Gone
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