Coachella 2012: Black Keys bring hard garage rock to the main stage
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.
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.
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.
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: The Black Keys' drummer Patrick Carney performs. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times