The Black Keys - Brixton Academy - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

The Black Keys - Brixton Academy

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:

Hailing from New York, American indie outfit The Walkmen were here tonight at Brixton to support The Black Keys. And even though they were the support, they had the presence and musicianship of a headline band. Confident and engaging, they owned their performance - not surprising, as they have been playing together for more than 10 years.

Radiating a smooth retro style that nods to the likes of The Velvet underground and Dylan, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser's distinctive voice is perfectly suited for belting out emotionally charged songs. Melancholy and heartbreak are the themes of most songs, with a little disappointment, resentment and regret thrown in for good measure. This may not sound like a fun way to spend your evening but The Walkmen just do this subject matter so well. They are convincing and self-assured without being whiny. They bring a certain joy to despair.

Matt Berrick's sterling drumming is the true heart to their performance, bringing a surging energy that drives everything, from punky, fast-paced numbers such as 'The Rat' to the more quirky tinkery tones of 'Woe is Me'. They have a real vintage feel, with low-key, yellow-tinged lighting, antique instruments including an upright piano and old school amps. As for their look, they certainly don't dress like rock stars - in fact, Hamilton wouldn't look out of place eating his lunch from a paper bag in the park before returning to his cubical in some office somewhere. But with that voice, I guess it doesn't matter what he wears; you just want to listen to him, and I hate to say, but hope he never cheers up.

After a quick clearing of instruments and rolling out of a massive drum kit, dirty-blues legends The Black Keys took to the stage to rapturous applause and whooping from a nicely buzzed audience, instantly engulfing our ears and filling the air with their unmistakable, thunderously gritty, garage-blues rock. It's brilliant how only two people, one of whom is sat behind a drum kit, can fill a stage and make such a full-bodied, mind-blowing expanse of sound. Dan Auerbach's stellar guitar playing is the stuff most aspiring rock stars can only dream of. Match this with his voice's raw gravely tones and you have to blues music what coke is to bourbon. A winning combination of rock 'n' roll genius!

Halfway through the set, they were joined by a bassist and keyboard player for songs from recent album Brothers, which provided a nice change in dynamic, although personally I like them just as they are - a duo. The highlight came with 'Next Girl', when a giant glitter ball was raised, casting sparkling light onto a throng of people chanting, "My next girl will be nothing like my ex-girl". Some girls, however, must have taken offense as punches were thrown and a catfight broke out. Fortunately, it was quickly quelled and the band didn't miss a beat.

So after a long, steady career it seems The Black Keys have finally made the big league, with Brothers selling over 73,000 in its first week, ranking third in the Billboard chart and a sold out tour to boot. In a Kings Of Leon parallel, The Black Keys have also matched the rise of their success with the trimming of beards and styling of hair. Let's just hope they don't start making videos with African children.

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