The Black Keys Live Review: Noel Gallagher joins duo for electrifying testament to the power of rock’n’roll.

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney continue to scale up their blues rock powerhouse to new heights.

The Black Keys and Noel Gallagher Brixton Academy May 7 2024

by Stevie Chick |
Updated on

The Black Keys

O2 Academy Brixton, May 7, 2024

The Black Keys, The White Stripes and the ragged band of garage-rock revivalists who emerged at the start of this century were operating to a laudable guiding principle: to pare away all the extraneous crud that rock’n’roll had accumulated over its several decades and return to the music’s true essence. So they lopped away rock’s ungainly middle-aged spread and cut back to the bone, to the swagger and snarl of R’n’B and the sweet relief of the blues. Once they’d exhausted the potential in this elemental approach to the form – once it had become more of a cage than a liberation – the challenge became how to build upon that skeleton without repeating the same self-indulgent mistakes of the generations before them: how to grow, without growing complacent.

READ MORE: The Black Keys Interviewed: “It took us some place we hadn't expected to go…”

Akron, Ohio duo The Black Keys have been rising to that particular challenge since 2007’s Attack & Release, when they swapped their previous homebrew approach to making records and put their trust in production whiz Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton. The duo’s earlier work had been particularly stark, often relying solely on Patrick Carney’s piledriver drums, the junkyard bark of Dan Auerbach’s guitar and his soulful howl. But Burton helped the pair realise their potential, fleshing their early sketches into something vivid and three-dimensional, without betraying their fundamental mission.

Across the albums that followed, the Keys have continued to experiment and expanded their lexicon. But crucially, they have never not sounded like themselves – even when, as on this year’s Ohio Players, they opened the door to Noel Gallagher and Beck for songwriting assistance. Tonight’s setlist celebrates both the group’s indelible character, and how deftly they’ve diversified. It’s a decade-and-a-half since they ditched their minimalist duo set-up onstage, and with their number now swelled to six – rising to eight for those numbers where trumpeter and saxophonist wander onstage – the band’s never been bigger than it is now. But even with all those extra musicians up there, there’s no clutter, their lean attack remaining intact; even a percussionist resembling Zoot from The Muppets mainly just beats a tambourine in time with Carney’s snare-hits, amplifying the beat, not complicating it. And the accompanying bass, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist all understand that the dominant voice should always be the throaty growl of Auerbach’s lyrical guitar.

But when the opportunity arises, they use those extra hands superbly. Weight Of Love, from 2014’s Turn Blue, is cinematic tonight, gliding in with an autumnal ennui akin to Pink Floyd’s Breathe, before yielding the floor to intense, discursive guitar solos evoking the emotional churn of Neil Young’s Down By The River. The Beck co-write Beautiful People proves a joyful left-turn, a mischievous, vagabond funk worthy of the Happy Mondays. And Noel Gallagher himself sidles onstage for the encore, to accompany Auerbach and Carney on two of his co-writes. Only Love Matters is unmistakably his work, a skyscraper-tall slab of mid-paced anthemic uplift aiming for the terraces, but it’s the melodically sophisticated On the Game that’s his best turn tonight, a marvellously Beatle-esque treat entirely within the Keys’ wheelhouse.

Unlike their former sparring partner Jack White, The Black Keys don’t really deal in mythos or theatre; their between-song chat is limited to humble gratitude and Auerbach’s affectionate shout-outs to his skin-pummelling brother-in-rock. Instead, they’re more interested in getting the job done, and take such abundant joy in getting down to work they raise even their simplest rock’n’roll to something sublime. A guttural run through garage-rock standard Have Love, Will Travel becomes a showcase for the crackling interplay between the duo, Carney stretching the beat and conjuring the band’s signature lopsided groove. Heavy Soul takes the moment when Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love segues from psychedelic freakout back to heavy-rock nirvana and stretches that energy across the entire song, gratification not so much delayed as sustained.

The highlight, however, is an inspired cover of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, preserving both the paranoid slow-burn of Marvin Gaye’s epochal take and the restless rasp of Creedence Clearwater’s reimagining, Auerbach playing slide-guitar like Jimmy Page with a might that could break levees. That’s the primal force The Black Keys play with tonight, even in their more ambitious moments, even as they display a gift for songcraft to match their considerable muscle. Marvel at how they’ve grown – and wonder where it will take them next.


I Got Mine

Gold On The Ceiling

Your Touch

Tighten Up

Have Love, Will Travel

Everlasting Light

Next Girl


This Is Nowhere

Heavy Soul

Weight Of Love

Howling For You

Beautiful People


Wild Child

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

She’s Long Gone

Little Black Submarine


Only Love Matters

On The Game

Lonely Boy

Pictures: Larry Niehues

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