“You get to watch us practice,” said frontman Dan Auerbach, who's lately been spending a great deal of his time helming new projects (the forthcoming JEFF the Brotherhood record, for instance) at his Nashville-based studio, Easy Eye Sound. Drummer Patrick Carney started the intro to “Howlin’ For You.” The small crowed of 200 cheered and the show was on.
To see The Black Keys at the peak of their popularity — “practice” or not — was a treat for fans indeed. But the sober patrons didn't express their appreciation quite as, say, fervently as you might expect. Maybe they were in awe. Or just really, really sober. There wasn’t much hip shakin’ or back breakin’ going on, perhaps due to the “I’m so cool because I’m at The Black Keys' secret show” vibe going around. Nevertheless, all was good.
The guys brought out the big box of hits, a jumbo background screen with abstract visions of desert highways, a light show solid enough to make an epileptic seize and, to top it all off, free soft drinks! Breezing their way through new material — like “Gold on the Ceiling” from December's El Camino — juxtaposed with gems like “Your Touch” and “Ten Cent Pistol,” the core of the set was pure rock 'n' roll.
After closing with “Lonely Boy," they were quickly called back by the once-self-conscious fans for a two-song encore, which featured “Everlasting Light” and “She’s Long Gone.” The blinding house lights came on, and it was time to go. But they left us with a pretty resounding conclusion: The Black Keys are seriously good at practice.