Room for more
Blues-rock greats the Black Keys alter their duo dynamic
Published: December 2, 2010
The Black Keys8:30 p.m. Dec. 4
House of Blues,
Fans who see the Black Keys on tour this fall will see something very different from the group they know. During a central segment of the show, it won’t be just Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals and Patrick Carney on drums – the way it’s been with the Black Keys live ever since the band formed in 2001.
“We’re doing probably 10 songs off of the new record [titled Brothers], maybe not every night, but we’re going to be playing like a 30-minute block off of the new record with a bass player and a keyboard player,” says Carney. “So we’re going to start the show off as a two-piece, do a middle section with a four-piece and then end as a two-piece.”
The evolution of the Black Keys into a four-piece band – at least part of the time – is a symbol of a major step the duo has taken with its music on Brothers, the aforementioned “new record” that dropped last summer.
“I think maybe for a long time there was an understanding, even though it was mostly unspoken, that we were a guitar-and-drums combo,” says Carney. “And when we did Attack & Release [their fifth full-length album released in 2008], we were consciously trying to make a record that was not really sticking to that formula, but we were still heading into that with the understanding that we’d have to play these songs live as a two piece.
“I think when we went in to make [Brothers] we never even considered how we were going to recreate it. That never even came up until the record was done. The main goal was just to make a record that we liked.”
Despite the album’s departure from the Black Keys’ norm, Brothers finds the group boldly stretching out on songs like “Everlasting Light,” which gets things off to a thrilling start with a deliciously funky sound that would make Prince proud. “Tighten Up,” a recent No. 1 hit on alternative rock radio, takes the funk in a more soulful direction while delivering the rhythmic wallop Black Keys fans have come to know and love.
That’s far from the only song on Brothers with a soulful edge. “Never Gonna Give You Up” finds Auerbach and Carney exploring a sleeker side of soul. Meanwhile, songs such as “She’s Long Gone,” “Next Girl” and “Howlin’ For You” hew closer to the Black Keys’ familiar, gritty blues-rock sound. But even here, the duo adds instrumentation or subtle stylistic twists that put a new spin on their sound.
In essence, Auerbach and Carney have managed the tricky task of expanding their sound without losing the stylistic – or even the basic instrumental – identity of the Black Keys.
“Dan and I definitely don’t want to limit ourselves in what we can do,” says Carney. “We make music that’s kind of based in the American blues tradition in some capacity, but also American garage rock, and those are all heavy influences. But I would like to think we could make an extremely poppy record or an extremely psychedelic record and there would be a common thread between it all that would sound like us. I think we could make a record without guitar that would sound like Black Keys.”
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