October 16, 2019 | By Sophie Cannon for Artistry Magazine
“We’re gonna keep moving right along,” said Dan Auerbach, setting the scene for the rest of the high-energy night. The lead singer of The Black Keys had no time for storytelling, and after thanking opening acts Modest Mouse and Jessy Wilson for warming up the crowd at TD Garden on Oct. 11, he powered through hit after classic-rock hit. The Boston visit was part of the Let’s Rock tour, and showed off songs from the namesake album that debuted in June of this past year, as well as showings from their previous albums, making sure to sprinkle in crowd favorites along the way.
The Black Keys hail from Akron, Ohio, a small Midwest town not usually associated with the fist-pumping crowd that the duo brought to the stadium. The main members of the Keys are frontman Auerbach and his long-time friend, drummer Patrick Carney. Never forgetting their roots, to preface the songs “10 A.M. Automatic” and “Thickfreakness,” Auerbach spoke for maybe the second time the entire night, “We are gonna take you back to the basement. Some Ohio basement music for you!”
The setlist was varied, a much-needed element in a rock show where necks can tire of headbanging if all of the songs are intense. The night started off with a classic, I Got Mine, which upon its release, climbed to number 23 of Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of 2008. Launching through Eagle Birds and Tell Me Lies, the first half of the show was full of easy to dance to beats and catchy lyrics, known by almost every member of the crowd — singing along was both encouraged and expected.
At the end of the third song, the stage went black, the neon Black Keys logo retreating back up into the scaffolding. Then, with the first note of Gold on the Ceiling, the white backdrop was lifted, revealing a larger than life ring with lightning bolts carved into either side. The middle of the display was a projector, and throughout the night it would provide matching visuals for each of the preceding songs. For Gold on the Ceiling, the ring was fittingly lit up in brassy colors — close-ups of golden rust-colored cars and bronze fire.
About three-quarters of the way through the set, when the audience had fallen into the groove of rock and roll melodies, an incredible change of pace took the show in a brand new direction. Everlasting Light featured Auerbach like never before in this show, with the sweetest falsetto and floating lyrics. His piercingly sweet notes were calming, but it was also a surreal moment — strange that just a second ago the same man was belting out a deep soulful rock anthem. Cue the disco ball from the rafters of the Garden and the mood was set.
Then the most recognized pump-up anthem started up, waking the room from the blissful vacation of high notes and taking them back to a rock show in less than a minute. As soon as the catchy chorus of “ba da da da da” started, the crowd knew exactly what to do, singing along to Howlin’ for You. As a knowing smile cracked across the lead singers face, the show transitioned to its powerful ending.
The band rounded out the night with one more slow dance, Little Black Submarines, one of the most acoustic songs of the evening. With just one yellow light illuminating Auerbach, the song started as the crowd caught on, turning their phone flashlights into stars to carry this night through its penultimate song.
Like the last slower song, the next one up went directly back to the classics. And for the finale song, it was one of the band’s most popular. Prefaced with a coy, “You help us out with this one if you can, okay?” from Auerbach, the five man touring band launched into Lonely Boy.
After an encore of Lo/High, Go, and She’s Long Gone, The Black Keys faded into the blackness until the next stop on the tour. Rock fans left happy, as they had just enjoyed a night of not only the Black Keys, but also the two supporting acts of the evening, first Jessy Wilson and then a quite lengthy opening set by Modest Mouse.
Wilson, in a fringed denim jacket, black lamé leggings and white Go-Go boots, treated the stage as her own personal dance floor — despite the fact that the crowd had just started to trickle in. Her high-energy set was littered with vocal punches fading right into floating falsettos without missing a beat. Before closing her early evening set with her most popular track Clap Your Hands, Wilson made sure she showed Boston her love and appreciation. “I’m a woman independent artist. I love you already, Boston, for real!”
After Wilson urged the crowd to follow her socials and visit her in the lobby during the set change, Modest Mouse took over. Entering the arena, lead singer Isaac Brock took center stage in a light purple rain coat, fitting for the terribly wet evening outside the Garden. What was the reason for the attire? “I’m not a gambling man necessarily,” he said, starting to unzip his coat. “But I made a bet against someone I can win against — myself. I bet myself that I could play the whole show in a rain jacket. Halfway through that first song I realized it didn’t breathe. I am, myself, a climate!”
After the quick change, newly button-down clad Brock and his bandmates also launched into their set, not stopping to talk to the audience very much at all. What they lacked in conversation, they certainly made up in the array of musical instruments featured. On the track Dashboard, an electric violin was used, Bukouski featured a banjo solo, and a euphonium even came out during the show, rounding out the rock band with the brass horn instrument. Making sure to include the cult favorite Float On, the band prepared the audience for the music to follow, making the Let’s Rock tour fitting of its name.