Things were running late on the main stage at Coachella on Friday night thanks to Cee Lo Green's tardy entrance earlier in the day. So when the Black Keys began their set nearly 15 minutes behind schedule, the crowd was restive. Matters were made worse by the fact that the giant monitors beside the stage that broadcast close-up video of the performances were not working.
Suddenly the Keys, a two-piece band that occasionally plays with the addition of a bassist and keyboardist, seemed incredibly small for such a massive space. Without the benefit of video, the thousands of people on the field were left with no way to see the band perform. It didn't help that volume seemed to be low as well.
"Louder, louder, louder!" chanted the crowd in between songs.
But there was a certain magic to the lack of monitors. When you stare at the screen it's almost as if you are watching the band on TV instead of experiencing them live. The technical glitch allowed people to focus on the provocative sound of the stripped down, blues-fueled rock, which spilled across the field, leaving something for every imagination in its wake.
When the monitors sprang to life 20 minutes into the set, bringing guitarist-singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney into stark relief, the crowd cheered, but ironically the sudden closeness resulted in a loss of intimacy.
"Everyone, it's Patrick's birthday," said Auerbach toward the end of the set. "He doesn't want us to sing happy birthday to him, but can we all just say it at once on the count of three?"
The audience obliged, and Carney's deep blush filled the screens for all to see.
-- Jessica Gelt