A former car dealership supercharged by the Black Keys
By JOSHUA LIEBERSON
STATIC and FEEDBACK title
I haven’t ventured into the Upper West Side in quite a while, and quite frankly, have never been on 11th Avenue in the vicinity of the high 50 streets ever. Quite to my surprise, there are a ton of car dealerships here. Apparently, if you want a BMW, Saab, Lincoln, etc., this is where Manhattan offers it to you. Nevermind that there are more car dealerships in this three-block radius than there are gas stations in the entire borough. This is relevant because Terminal 5, which I initially expected to be either an on-the-pier warehouse or maybe some dude’s basement, is a holed-out former dealership right in the heart of a district I never knew existed.
The venue is actually quite fabulous. Two balconies which go really high over the side and back of the venue, standing room only, of course. Capacity is around 3,000 people, and for this night, we would be packed to the gills. Who knew? As far as my out-of-date existence was concerned, the Black Keys were just some band I stumbled upon due to the recommendation of friends. Apparently, lots of people know about them.
Anyway, we head in, and once again I am far too cheap to go for the subpar clothing options, and hit up the bar where they have Blue Point Toasted Lager and Sierra Nevada. All right! Something above Heineken Light and Budweiser. I could grow to love this place! After mulling around for a few minutes, we find we can walk right up to stage, as in second row of people standing on the wood support for the barricade. This night just keeps getting better.
The Buffalo Killers hits the stage right on time, and suffice it to say there’s not much need for a long review of their set here. They were serviceable, got the crowd warmed up, and had some talent. As soon as they walked out, my friend immediately made a reference to the Bearded Men of Space Station 9 . I even got in the joke, “Men cannot grow beards in space.” I thought my window to repeat that line was long gone (and if you get this reference, you deserve a prize). Regardless, the band didn’t really kick it into high gear until the last song, which left me mostly feeling disappointed in their performance. No matter, I was pumped to be in the 2nd row for the Black Keys!
After a short set changeover, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney hit the stage to a roar from the crowd. Auerbach, and his incredibly long beard and fedora, looks like a 30-year-old version of present day Tom Petty, while Patrick Carney was sporting his Dave Grohl look-alike-ness. They came out not only rocking, but curiously starting with earlier songs from their catalog. They started the show with “Girl Is On My Mind” from 2004's Rubber Factory. This was when I noticed I had the best spot for this show than any other in my lifetime. When it came time to jam out, Auerbach would venture right in front of me, practically looking down at my Brooklyn Dodgers t-shirt (which got me in without security patting me down somehow). More oldies followed, with “thickfreakness,” “Set You Free,” and “10 A.M. Automatic,” one rocked-out tune after the other. This seemed like an on night for the band, as they were clearly more on point and more intense than during last year’s Lollapalooza set.
At this point, it seems proper to comment on what was the most curious crowd in memory for me. Here were the Black Keys, rocking out, and having a great time. Meanwhile, the crowd was wholly inconsistent due to what we noticed was a severely novice crowd. Almost everyone was 17 to 20 years old, and this was clearly their first concert. Behind me was the typical frat boy, trying to push in front of me. But in front of me was a girl having a great time, and going absolutely nuts, whipping her hair into my face, stepping on my foot, and generally in a state many refer to as psychosis. She knew every song though, so she gets a pass. Who doesn’t is Stoic Man. Stoic Man is really a young lad, say 18 years at most (he was sporting a true peach-fuzz beard), who did not move an inch the entire show. He just stood there, completely frozen, arms folded, mouth open — not in awe … almost in anger. I don’t understand him, or the many like him at the concert who, to varying degrees, engaged in near-psychotic behavior. Is this what I did at my first show? I sure hope not.
Okay, back to the show, because it was a doozy. The big highlights were “Stack Shot Billy” and “Busted” immediately afterward. Both were jammed out to perfection, with Auerbach in another universe, really providing the kind of passion and energy to his playing that he is capable of. Carney was his perfect battering mate, seemingly destroying his drum set (which held up nicely, considering Carney was pounding the skins like I’ve never seen). The set also featured a nice amount of songs from the new album, including the single “Strange Times”, which sounded incredible live, a totally different song than on their latest album, Attack and Release. “Oceans and Streams” featured Auerbach on keyboards, which, oddly, were set to sound almost exactly like his guitar, but it definitely worked. They then rocked out with “Remember When (Side B),” which is vintage Keys coming off the stage. To close out the set, “No Trust” and “I Got Mine” were played to near perfection, with the reckless abandon of the rest of the show.
For the encore, the band came out and played “Psychotic Girl”. The song is completely different than on the album, which takes a softer, more melodic angle. The live version is essentially taking the song and playing it with your everyday Black Keys flair, which I felt may have taken a little of the interest out of the song, but none of the swagger. Time for the show closer, “’Til I Get My Way.” I was disappointed that the show ended after 75 minutes, but if they played much longer, Carney may have ruptured internal organs, and Auerbach would perhaps be laid out in a coma from all the energy they poured out onto the New York City crowd.
Despite the lack of detail, this show ranks up there with some of the great shows I have seen, from a performance standard (the crowd was quite subpar as I noted earlier). Honestly, the whole thing is an incredible blur. I can’t even promise you that I have the order of the songs here right. It was just one jolt of energy and passion after another. To stand in the second row and take the full brunt force of this hard blues duo was nearly indescribable. And I fully plan to repeat the effort in August at McCarren Park Pool.
Finally, for you hardcore fans, it is worth noting that they also had played stellar versions of “Your Touch”, “You’re the One”, and a cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Here I am I Always Am”.
If you get the chance to see them or they are coming to a town relatively near you, I strongly advise to spend a few bucks and go. This is rock n’ roll and blues at its essence: unfiltered, powerful and raw as it will ever come.