The life of a touring musician can’t be easy. During a career that spans nearly 20 years, it’s probably safe to say that The Black Keys have logged a considerable amount of travel miles. They’ve laid their heads in unfamiliar beds and digested food unfit for rock gods — nonetheless, they’re back on the road. The duo, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, made a recent stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion for their Dropout Boogie Tour.
The July 25 show featured two outstanding supporting bands — Ceramic Animals and Band of Horses. A seemingly well-meaning public service announcement greeted fans as they awaited the headliner. The video played over the monitors flanking the stage.
“This is your last chance to leave…you do not have to submit yourselves to their hedonistic satan songs of satan and the devil himself,” said Harold, President of the advocacy group Dads Interested in Choosing our Kids Songs (D.I.C.K.S.). “They want your kids to be just like them, a couple of dropouts. Successful, Grammy award-winning, millionaire dropouts.”
Fans were unmoved by Harold’s humorous plea. Instead of exiting the amphitheater, they stood and howled loudly. The Black Keys would set the tone for the night with performances of “I Got Mine,” “Howlin’ for You,” and “Fever.”
Auerbach and Carney began their music career in Akron, Ohio, during the early aughts, but their story started in the Delta many decades prior. You can hear it in the fuzzy wailings of Auerbach’s guitar, the rhythmic percussion of Carney’s drum kit, and the hard-luck lyrics of many of The Black Keys’ songs. Their 2021 album, Delta Kream, is a tribute to their most significant influence — Mississippi blues guitarist Junior Kimbrough.
Kimbrough passed away in ‘98, but The Black Keys provided a glimpse of his genius during the show. The legendary blues slide guitarist, and former Kimbrough collaborator Kenny Brown and Kimbrough’s bassist Eric Deaton joined The Black Keys on stage to play a few songs from Delta Kream. Their performances of “Coal Black Mattie,” “Going Down South,” and a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling Kingsnake” would take fans to the juke joints of North Mississippi hill country.
Watch the official music video for John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling Kingsnake” by The Black Keys on YouTube:
The Black Keys owe a debt to the bluesmen they once emulated in their Akron basement. A responsibility they appeared eager to repay. “Without Kenny Brown, there would be no Black Keys,” Auerbach said during the show. These Delta blues legends revolutionized American music and helped shape The Black Keys’ sound.
During the show, the pair channeled the Midwestern haunts where they honed their craft. The bygone dive bars with cheap drinks, greasy food, and sweaty dance floors. Few other environments can generate the grit of songs like “Your Touch.” Auerbach’s amplified guitar wobbled fans like a California earthquake, while Carney’s stomping percussion set them back straight.
The Black Keys embody the ethos of Americana music, like how Friday night high school football games capture the spirit of middle America. The rallying anthem “Your Team is Looking Good” from the recently released Dropout Boogie album is a prime example. The song should blare over stadium loudspeakers from Akron to Odessa, TX. Perhaps, it’s time for a reboot of the 1986 sports comedy “Wildcats.” In the film, Goldie Hawn coaches a dysfunctional football team of high school degenerates. The Black Keys’ ode to old-school rock, “Wild Child,” also on Dropout Boogie, would be perfect for the movie soundtrack.
Watch The Black Keys’ official music video for “Wild Child” on YouTube:
The Black Keys came to Maryland to rock, but they gave fans a moment to catch their breath during the encore performance of “Little Black Submarines” from the 2011 El Camino album. They would then upshift to close the show with one of their most successful singles, “Lonely Boy,” also on El Camino.
Other highlights from the show included performances of:
- “It Ain’t Over,” Dropout Boogie (2022)
- “Everlasting Light,” Brothers (2019)
- “Tighten Up,” Brothers (2010)
- “Your Touch,” Magic Potion (2006)
- “Gold on the Ceiling,” El Camino (2011)
- “Lo/Hi,” Let’s Rock (2019)
- “Next Girl,” Brothers (2010)
- “Ten Cent Pistol,” Brothers (2010)
Here are some photos from The Black Keys show at Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 25, 2022. All photos are copyright and courtesy of Will Colbert.