Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
For some bands the hallowed stage at Madison Square Garden makes their greatness seem obvious. Strolling through the venue’s sleek hallways the other night before the Black Keys went on it felt like a really famous band was about to play.
“Tight, weird and propelled by the kind of well-articulated rage that the Brits have been bringing Stateside for sixty years, Arctic Monkeys deserved the nearly full house that showed up early to see them.”
College girls in their hottest my-mom-can’t-tell-me-what-to-wear-anymore outfits whispered to each other and giggled, glancing in the direction of nervous looking boyfriends in line for beer they’re too young to buy. Young men, dressed exactly like Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney in nerd glasses and flannel, were there. As were young men of the sort who probably beat Carney up in high school, in baseball caps and flip flops. Legendary music photographer and respected endorser of young bands, Mick Rock was strolling around as well.
Even three years ago it would have seemed unlikely that this bluesy duo from Akron, Ohio, real rock boys who could out-nerd High Fidelity‘s Rob Gordon and play willfully unvarnished rock and roll, could achieve mainstream fame in this auto-tuned post-Internet world.
Who knows how it happened, really? Licensing? The dirty wit of “Tighten Up” used in that car commercial? I don’t know. And I don’t care as long as it means more of this kind of rollicking old school rock show.
The Arctic Monkeys took the stage first, showing off what America’s been missing in not paying attention to them for the last half decade or so. Tight, weird and propelled by the kind of well-articulated rage that the Brits have been bringing Stateside for sixty years, Arctic Monkeys deserved the nearly full house that showed up early to see them.
“What country are they from again?” the scruffy middle aged security guard with James Hetfield facial hair asked me. England, I told him. He rolled his eyes and said, “I can’t understand a word they’re saying.”
Like the White Stripes, another ostensibly simple rock idea that generates a stadium worthy racket, the Black Keys were at ease in the venue’s vast, iconic space. And like they’ve been doing since 2001, they played their show their way: Loud. Three or four searing guitar notes into the first song I found myself madly searching through my pockets for spare napkins or … lint, even, anything I could stuff into my ears to keep this from being the last show I’d ever hear. I finally grabbed a Chase bank receipt, and in what felt like an act of punk-rock rebellion the band would endorse, tore that meager available balance into strips and made my own ear plugs. It was a DIY kind of night.