The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys at Target Center, 5/15/12

The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys
Target Center, Minneapolis
May 15, 2012

View a slideshow here.

A day after celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the release of their debut record (and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach's 33rd birthday) the Black Keys rolled confidently into their biggest local headlining gig yet at the Target Center on Tuesday night. The band came out focused and on fire, as if they were trying to make everyone forget about their rather tepid showing at Roy Wilkins last summer, delivering a rousing 85-minute set that easily ignited the 12,000+ fans that packed the arena. It was an exhilarating performance that had elements of the hardworking, humble roots of Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, as well as enormous video screens that made it quite clear that the Black Keys are indeed a full-on arena band now.

Sheffield, England's Arctic Monkeys opened the night with an invigorating, 55-minute opening set that got better as it went on (and more people filed into the arena). The spirited quartet have sold-out First Avenue on their own each of the three times they've played Minneapolis before, and had little trouble connecting with the growing crowd, as frontman Alex Turner was part showman, part comedian throughout their raucous performance.Their 16-song set was a good mixture of songs both new and old, with the opening trio of "Brianstorm," "This House Is A Circus," and "Still Take You Home," setting a breakneck pace that kept up through the rest of the set.

The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys at Target Center, 5/15/12
Photo By Steven Cohen

"The View From The Afternoon," and "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor," were both incendiary, and certainly got the attention of the portion of the crowd only there to see the Black Keys. "Would you say you're in a party mood, Minneapolis?" Turner asked partway through the set, and while at first the answer to that question wasn't too clear as the arena was only half-full at the start, by the end of the set the band had everyone feeling it, and ready for the headliners. When they got to their last number Turner mentioned that it was time for them to go, and the crowd playfully booed, to which Turner cheekily replied, "Grow up," before the band closed with their recent Record Store Day single, "R U Mine?" which brought their stellar opening set to a strong close. 

After a half-hour changeover, the Black Keys took to the stage as a four-piece, with bassist Gus Seyffert and keyboardist/guitarist John Wood joining Auerbach and Carney as they have on recent tours. The extra musicians gave the start of the set some added muscle, as the group caught fire toward the end of opener "Howlin' For You," before an electric version of "Next Girl" really set the place off. The later track was augmented by two two-story screens behind the band that displayed gigantic, blood-red images of the Auerbach and Carney, cementing the fact that the Black Keys have hit blown up big time.

A rather weak version of the new track "Run Right Back," was one of the only missteps during their exhilarating 20-song set, but the band immediately got things back on track with a blistering version of "Same Old Thing" that really found Auerbach wailing away on his guitar. After Dan encouraged the crowd to singalong with him on a lively version of "Dead And Gone," claiming "It will help us feel good about ourselves," the band tore into their recent hit, "Gold On The Ceiling," which was gritty and forceful.

The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys at Target Center, 5/15/12
Photo By Steven Cohen

The Black Keys made their reputation and success as a two-piece band, so it was a thrill to hear Dan announce that "We're going to play some songs with just the two of us now." And the four blistering songs that followed were clear highlights of the set, showing their new fans exactly why everyone started paying attention to them a decade ago. "Thickfreakness" was just filthy, and will always slay no matter how big the room gets. A moody version of "Girl Is On My Mind" quickly followed, and featured a bluesy, dramatic outro by Auerbach, which flowed right into a soulful version of "I'll Be Your Man," the only track they would dust-off from their 10-year-old debut The Big Come Up.

"Your Touch" closed out the duo's mini-set emphatically, as Dan and Patrick absolutely locked in on the crunchy rhythm of the song. The other two musicians quickly joined them on stage, as Auerbach grabbed a weathered acoustic guitar for the mournful introduction to "Little Black Submarines," (which featured hints of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" within the melody), before switching to electric guitar for the track's energetic finish. A somewhat bland version of "Money Maker" followed, before things picked right back up with an amped-up rendition of "Strange Times" got the crowd moving again.

The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys at Target Center, 5/15/12
Photo By Steven Cohen

After that forceful track, "Nova Baby" just seemed relentlessly pop by comparison, and the rock-by-numbers chorus doesn't really suit the band's strengths. But again, the group got things going again with the slow-burning blues of "Ten Cent Pistol," which featured a lengthy dramatic pause before the band kicked in on the sultry outro. "We've only got a couple left, so let's make 'em good ones and really get into it," Auerbach exclaimed as the main set drew to a close, and a funky version of "Tighten Up," and a ferocious rendition of "Lonely Boy" saw to it that his words would be proven true.

After a lengthy encore break, the band returned to perform "Everlasting Light" under an absolutely enormous disco ball, which cast a spectacular rainbow of light over the entire arena, and really added to the stirring tone of the track. Auerbach absolutely shredded on a ripping version of "She's Long Gone," before the band was again reduced to just a duo for a riotous run through of "I Got Mine" which ended the night with a shot. The Black Keys have certainly reached an arena-sized level of success, but based on their raucous, electrifying performance at the Target Center, they clearly haven't forgotten what got them there.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I've seen the Black Keys 6-7 times now (including a bunch of their Entry and First Ave shows), and while it was a bit comical to see Dan and Patrick's faces on giant screens, their music still packs quite a punch.

The Crowd: The general admission main floor was completely full, as was nearly all of the arena. They damn near sold-out the place.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I heard that Dan and Patrick hate each other now."

Random Notebook Dump: The sound was surprisingly decent at the Target Center. The venue has made some strides to improve the concert experience for fans, and while it's still a far from perfect place to see a show, it still sounded good.


The Black Keys:

Howlin' For You

Next Girl

Run Right Back

Same Old Thing

Dead And Gone

Gold On The Ceiling


Girl Is On My Mind

I'll Be Your Man

Your Touch

Little Black Submarines

Money Maker

Strange Times

Nova Baby

Ten Cent Pistol

Tighten Up

Lonely Boy

Everlasting Light (Encore)

She's Long Gone (Encore)

I Got Mine (Encore)


Arctic Monkeys:


This House Is A Circus

Still Take You Home

Library Pictures

Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair

The View From The Afternoon

I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor

Pretty Visitors

Do Me A Favour

Teddy Picker

Crying Lightning

That's Where You're Wrong

Fluorescent Adolescent

Evil Twin

Brick By Brick

R U Mine?

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