With the Super Bowl more pop culture spectacle than sporting event, the game's peripheral activities have nearly overshadowed – or at least equalled – the game itself. Double so for this year, as the game's close proximity to New York provides the sports-entertainment cabal an excuse to throw a week-long party, with an unlimited pot of corporate money allowing stadium-level musicians to perform smaller, more personal, gigs.
The Black Keys, who have long since graduated from theaters to arenas, stopped by Roseland Ballroom Friday night as part of "Citi Presents Evenings with Legends," a concert series for Citi Cardmembers. The series also included shows by John Legend and Band of Horses alongside conversations with Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice and vaunted former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka.
Passed shrimp cocktail and mini-eclairs aren't traditional hallmarks of scuzzy blues-rock. But, unlike most corporate events where the audience is littered with people whose net worth outweighs their enthusiasm, the crowd at Roseland recognized every opening lick by frontman Dan Auerbach. The 70-minute, 16-song set drew solely from the group's last three albums: 2011's El Camino, 2010's Brothers and 2008's Attack & Release. The duo of Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney play live as a quartet – their sound thickened and beefed up – though in this (relatively) intimate environment, the moments they reverted to a duo, as on set closer "I Got Mine," worked well.
For a band that had just finished playing Howard Stern's 60th Birthday Party at Hammerstein Ballroom earlier that night, the group appeared limber and energetic. "We used to drive around in a little minivan listening to Howard Stern," said Auerbach after "Ten Cent Pistol." "And now we got to play for his birthday today."
For all the Black Keys' rawk songs, some of the night's biggest moments were also its most intimate. Nothing's displacing raucous crowd favorites "Lonely Boy" and "Gold on the Ceiling," but for a band that can be reduced to "blues-rock" by non-fans, "Everlasting Light" and Auerbach's soft, acoustic first verse of "Little Black Submarines" got two of the biggest responses of the night.
The concert also functioned as part of an extended eulogy for the Roseland Ballroom, a venue set to close in April with a four-night run by Lady Gaga. The theater's in hospice care, with well-wishers saying their last goodbyes before the euthanasia. Walking in and out of the venue, multiple conversations revolved around first Roseland concerts and favorite memories. (Apologies to the person whose first show was Sum 41. You can't erase that.)
Halfway through the set, a fan wearing a jersey of former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn (over a plaid button-down, which you just don't do) began screaming, "Friggin' Seahawks! Friggin' Sea . . . Hawks!" after every song to no one in particular. This was either subliminal NFL marketing or the result of an open bar with generous pours. Either way, the Super Bowl has arrived. Strange Times indeed.
1. "Howlin' for You"
2. "Next Girl"
3. "Run Right Back"
4. "Same Old Thing"
5. "Dead and Gone"
6. "Gold on the Ceiling"
7. "Little Black Submarines"
8. "Money Maker"
9. "Strange Times"
10. "Nova Baby"
11. "Ten Cent Pistol"
12. "She's Long Gone"
13. "Tighten Up"
14. "Lonely Boy"
15. "Everlasting Light"
16. "I Got Mine"
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