Saturday, October 9, 2010

Live Review: Black Keys

Crystal Ballroom, Portland
Monday, October 4th, 2010
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

I've been waiting for the Tuesday night setlist to surface on the internets before posting my review, but it's looking like it doesn't exist. Therefore, I will state what I've been trying to avoid saying for the last four days. It's bullshit playing the exact same show two nights in a row.

I love seeing bands back to back nights. How many times have you been to a killer show and thought, "goddamn, I wish I could see them again tomorrow?" Comparing and contrasting the merits of each show is so engaging, especially since you're never in the same mental state for each show. This is the reason I had early October circled on my calendar. I get to see the Black Keys two nights in a row! Every essential song they don't play the first night, they'll play the second night! I can't wait!

I had a blast at Monday's show. They delivered an entertaining energetic performance. Their minimalist light-my-basement type light show worked perfect with their minimalist bluesy basement sound. I was curious to see how two men could pull off the material on their most recent album, so it made sense they brought out two others. It was a bit strange seeing four people playing Black Keys songs, but it was fun.

Then Tuesday hit. Have you ever watched a movie you thought you've never seen, then get through the first fifteen minutes and think, "Wait, this is really familiar. I think I've seen this before." Then 20 minutes pass, and you know you've seen it. You can tell your friends who is going to die, how the plot unfolds, and what is going to happen at the end. You're not on the edge of your seat. Instead, you change your laundry, smoke a cigarette, or call your mom.

I know certain bands don't have the ability to mix things up live, because they play to their visuals and/or light show, so it's expected seeing back to back shows in different cities will be nearly identical. But this is a drummer and a guitar player. They can easily switch up their setlist. Why not say, "We played 'Sinister Kid' during last night's encore, let's play 'When The Lights Go Out,' tonight?" It's the same fucking city, and half the crowd was there for both shows.

Having seen Modest Mouse four nights in a row, I can say I heard every hit, every new song, and every cult classic, but didn't see them each night, or in the same order. Some classics were played three nights, some lesser known hits were played once, and the sequence was always different. I never thought, "they will play (fill in the blank) song next, because that's what they did last night." Even if you play the same songs, switching up the order keeps the show fresh. Opening with "Your Touch" would have created the thought of "Holy shit, they closed with that last night, I wonder what they will close with tonight?" Unless you're a Star Wars fan, paying to see the same movie two nights in a row sucks, right?

I've held an Interpol grudge for three years now because they played the same setlist in Portland, eight months removed. That grudge is warranted, because Interpol live is average at best. I'll always think playing the same set two nights in a row is Bush League, but the Black Keys are above average live, so I'll get over it.

Fans posted want adds for double face on craigslist, sellers asked for $150, and many Black Keys fans didn't attend because they couldn't afford the scalper prices. Knowing what I know now, I'm kicking myself for not going to the Felice Brothers or Caribou the second night, and providing a die-hard fan the opportunity to see the Keys live. Luckily for those die-hards who missed the show, the Keys are playing again in December.

The next band I pay to see two nights in a row, will be nothing like that ex band I paid to see two nights in a row, I made mistakes back then, I'll never do it again.



  1. I haven't compared the set lists from the two PDX shows to other shows on this tour but I would be curious to see how similar they are. Maybe it's like being married...SSDD.

  2. I hadn't compared setlists until just now, but I knew they played "I'm Too Afraid To Love You," in Vancouver, which they didn't play either night in Portland.

    It looks like they played the same setlist in Austin last week, but I wasn't at that show, and neither was anyone attending the Portland shows.

    It's like if your wife cooked Tuna Helper for you two nights in a row. If she's cooking for a different crowd, that's fine. Many people attended both Portland shows, and were wishing they ordered pizza rather than eating Tuna Helper again.

  3. I think the reference of dudes eating tuna in a review is cool, no matter how it is snuck in. I am almost positive the reason they play the same set every night is in fact the light show. I stood by the lighting guy and he was a blur of fingers moving sliders, twisting knobs, and pushing buttons, all to the beat. It was literally completely manually done by a guy who knew the songs and when to do whatever with whatever lights. So although that is pretty cool, and I liked the lights, it makes for a lame second show.

    BK on 'no longer interested in seeing' list.

  4. Thanks for the reply, but I disagree with you completely, and apparently you disagree with yourself as well. You stated, "I am almost positive the reason they play the same set every night is in fact the light show," and follow it up with, "It was literally completely manually done by a guy who knew the songs and when to do whatever with whatever lights." That suggests they can reverse their setlist as long as they had the bad-ass lighting guy moving the knobs.

    Their setlists were similar on that tour, but they changed it up a bit night by night. Bands with extensive light shows have been known to play completely different shows night by night, Phish for example. The Black Keys light show was minimal.

    Plus, the Black Keys third show, which was again the same setlist, didn't have a light show.

  5. It is consistent. The light guy timed the lights by keeping the rhythm himself, knowing the songs, and manually moving the knobs and whatnot to the tune. In other words, the light guy had to know, as well as the band, each song, to jiggle knobs and levers appropriately (it was pretty amazing to watch, I was astounded one guy could even pull it off). And since he was over on the side, and the band was onstage, I'm sure it was pre-ordained each night how it would go, so he would know what his setup was for each, etc. The difference, basically, is the BK show was purely manual lighting, and analog lights, with not a computer to be seen. Arcade Fire, for example, was the exact opposite of this and pre-programmed all the way.

  6. Most bands play to a setlist, that is no secret. It doesn't have to be the same each night. "Here lighting dude, this is the setlist we are going to play tonight." Arcade Fire's lighting was pre-programmed, as you say, but they played a different setlist in Portland than they did in Vancouver a couple nights prior.

    That's cool you got to see Black Key's lighting dude at work. He must have missed the flight for their third show.