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Coachella 2012: Black Keys bring hard garage rock to the main stage

April 14, 2012 | 11:06 am


As guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr. proved earlier in the day, there's no arguing with a master blues rock player, someone who can channel chords and licks that have been seemingly done to death -- after all, how many combinations of progressions could there possibly be? -- with the venom and volume to awe a bunch of jaded kids.

The Black Keys are two average midwestern dudes, at least from the outside, the kind of guys that you might mistake for mechanics or restaurant managers.

Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach is certainly no Jarvis Cocker, the astounding, magnetic lead singer of Pulp who had played just before on the main stage. Cocker is a natural, and is perfectly happy to be the ringmaster; Auerbach's just there to play the rock songs to entertain the people, no witty banter required.

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

Drummer Patrick Carney murders his drum kit every night. Touring in support of its recent "El Camino," the band beefed up its lineup for the occasion, which added a necessary depth to what can be a pretty sparse live sound when performing as a duo.

The bass and organ drove those big El Camino songs to the fence, but mostly they allowed Auerbach to let loose on guitar, as he did on new songs like the genius ditty "Lonely Boy" and the rousing "Hell of a Season," both of which have not only landed on radio but, in the case of the latter, has already become a sports-rock anthem.

But the highlight of the band's set was the subtlest song the Black Keys played at Coachella, one that offered evidence of the building confidence that the band has about playing these kinds of mega-fests.

Rather than bring the volume, Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney opted for a low-key approach for another of the band's hits, "Everlasting Light." On record, it's a big song; at Coachella, Auerbach sang it softly, in sweet falsetto a la Curtis Mayfield.

"Let me be your everlasting light," he sang as the thousands joined along, and on a chilly night in Indio, that light warmed the mainstage, and filled the crowd with energy.


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-- Randall Roberts

Photo: The Black Keys' drummer Patrick Carney performs. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times