The Black Keys at the TD Garden

Matthew Shelter on March 9, 2012

The Black Keys
TD Garden
Boston, MA
March 7

The Black Keys waltzed into Boston’s TD Garden on Wednesday night as if they’ve been playing arena-size venues like this all their lives. For those worried about the group’s ability to make the leap from clubs to arenas – and a fair portion of the Keys’ fan base seems to fit into that category – worry no more. Boston was just stop number five on a North American tour that will take the duo to some three dozen large venues over the next two months, but Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are clearly up for the challenge.

“What a thrill to play the Garden,” Auerbach said from the stage midway through the show. “It’s unreal.” The 19,600-seat arena was filled to the brim, and enough of the Keys’ growing legion of fans has been willing to follow the group up the musical ladder that they have already sold out shows in DC, New York (two nights at Madison Square Garden) and at least a half-dozen other upcoming stops on the tour.

The set list has remained fairly consistent so far. Augmented by a pair of backing musicians, the Keys opened with “Howlin’ for You” and “Next Girl” from 2010’s breakout album Brothers, before moving into El Camino territory with “Run Right Back,” “Dead and Gone” and the crowd-pleasing “Gold on the Ceiling.” Sandwiched in there was “Same Old Thing,” a track off of 2008’s Attack and Release.

After the first six songs, Auerbach told the crowd that, “We’re gonna play some songs now with the just the two of us.” What followed were four of the strongest tunes of the night, all plucked from the band’s early catalog: “Thickfreakness,” “Girl Is On My Mind,” “I’ll Be Your Man,” and “Your Touch.” It was as if Auerbach and Carney wanted to lay to rest any doubts about their ability to rock a 15,000 or 20,000-seat arena just by their lonesome. Or maybe just remind everyone of how they got there.

Rejoined by their touring musicians, they launched into “Little Black Submarines,” another standout track from El Camino, which sounds like something cooked up by Jimmy Page and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson in a mad underground musical lab somewhere and then delivered to Carney and Auerbach at a safehouse outside of Akron, Ohio by Satan. Patrick Carney’s drumming reached all the way into the rafters on this song; when you make a deal with the devil, after all, you do get a whole lot of talent in exchange for…well, you know. On “Submarines” and the follow-on “Money Maker,” Carney was on fire.

Other highlights of the night included “Ten Cent Pistol” and “Tighten Up,” off of Brothers, and set-closer “Lonely Boy.” The band returned for a three-song encore, including a version of “Everlasting Light” that was played beneath an enormous silver disco ball that spun multi-colored sparkles into every corner of the big hall. (And you were worried they wouldn’t know how to put on an arena show!)