The Black Keys Played a Sold-Out Madison Square Garden? Yep.

I stumbled upon a very affordable ticket to see the Black Keys play at Madison Square Garden last night. I knew that they had sold out the place a few months ago but had forgotten when they were playing until this morning. My good friend and roommate had tickets since the day they went on sale, and he reminded me that “the Keys,” as a guy I met in a beer line called them, were playing last night.

I hate to be that guy, but I hadn’t seen the Black Keys headline a show since they played the Bowery Ballroom, Warsaw, and Nokia/Best Buy/Your-Name-Here Theater several years ago. I did catch a few of their songs at MSG when they opened for Pearl Jam, but it wasn’t enough to judge the band as a whole.

With cheap tickets in hand, a friend and I got into the show right around the middle of the Arctic Monkeys’ set. They didn’t do anything for me, and after a couple of songs I was in the aforementioned beer line.

As for the Black Keys, they ain’t got any Beefheart left in ’em, but they were still loud and good. I went in having heard each of their last four albums but relatively unfamiliar with them compared to their first three. I was hoping to hear a good chunk of the old stuff, but they stuck mainly to the most recent stuff.

The set list, per

Howlin’ for You
Next Girl
Run Right Back
Same Old Thing
Dead and Gone
Gold on the Ceiling
Girl Is On My Mind
I’ll Be Your Man
Your Touch
Little Black Submarines
Money Maker
Strange Times
Chop and Change
Nova Baby
Ten Cent Pistol
Tighten Up
Lonely Boy

Everlasting Light
She’s Long Gone
I Got Mine

And that’s fine. It made for a very good show and had the MSG crowd going.  Before playing “Thickfreakness,” Dan Auerbach announced that he and Patrick Carney were going to play some songs by themselves rather than with their four-piece setup. This was what I signed up for. It only lasted for three songs – one from each of their first three albums – but the songs still stood up and hadn’t changed.  They  sounded just fine in such a large space, too, which I wasn’t so sure was going to be the case.

The majority of the set, though, was the new format, with a bass and keyboard/guitar player in the shadows behind Dan and Patrick’s spotlights. I suppose you didn’t have to see the band live to realize it, but the new and old Black Keys are bands of chords and riffs, respectively. It would be surprising if they’ve played “Grown So Ugly” at any of their recent shows. The Captain Beefheart cover from Rubber Factory, which I’m guessing got its name from Beefheart’s “Plastic Factory,” has lyrics that might hit a little too close to home:

Baby this ain’t me,
Baby this ain’t me,
Grown so ugly, I don’t even know myself

To their credit, they wrapped up the encore with “I Got Mine” in their original two-piece setup. Somewhere underneath the full band there’s still the core of the Black Keys, but we might not see it in public too much in the near future. For now, they’re still playing a good show, blasting the guitar, and seemingly having fun in the process. I wouldn’t pay 80 bucks to get the best seat in the house, but if there’s another deal to be had in the future, I’d go again.