Two-person bands -- if they can be called bands -- have enjoyed a bit of a boom in the past few years. Detroit's White Stripes are the best-known of these rocking musical duos, but others such as the Raveonettes and the Kills have also experienced some success.
Enter the Black Keys, a powerhouse, white-thrash blues band, er, duo from Akron, Ohio, with a giant crashing sound that is louder and fuller and grimmer than a drummer and guitarist alone should be able to produce.
Before a good-sized crowd at the 9:30 club on Wednesday night, drummer Patrick Carney and guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach played a roaring, cocksure set that replaced the traditional mournful sound of the Delta blues with a variety that was much more harrowing.
Auerbach is a ferociously talented guitarist whose leads bristle and burn as if the guitar were a molten mass. And Carney wails on his drums as if he were taking part in an anger management therapy exercise. The pair's concert is as much a show of force as it is a musical performance.
Highlights included the blistering "Stack Shot Billy," an update on the folk/blues standard "Stagger Lee" and a cover of Louisiana bluesman Robert Pete Williams's "Grown So Ugly," both from the band's new album, "Rubber Factory."
If there is a problem with the Black Keys, it is the structure of the band. The two-person approach gives the songs a raw, even primitive feel, but ultimately it feels too limiting. Even though the show clocked in at just over an hour, it had already begun to feel a bit wearying before the encore, and it became harder to distinguish the songs from one another. Ultimately, the songs seemed not to match the prodigious musical ability of their authors.
-- Joe Heim