The Black Keys have come a long way from their days playing fuzzy blues rock in basements around Akron, Ohio. More than two decades since their releasing their first LP, The Big Come Up, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have expanded their band to include a full-on touring ensemble—which is much needed, what with all the heavy lifting that comes with the band’s growing catalog of mainstream hits.
That collection of original standards, newborn bangers, and reimagined blues classics was on display like never before as he Black Keys brought the Dropout Boogie tour to the Kia Forum in Inglewood on Saturday.
After spine-tingling opening sets from The Velveteers and Band of Horses—along with a hilarious video featuring comedian David Cross as enemy of the band Harry Trousersnake—Dan, Patrick, and company took the stage for a run of songs that had the audience on its feet from end to end of the nearly two-hour set. From “I Got Mine” and “Fever” to “Your Touch”, the boys from northeast Ohio fed favorite after favorite to their fans to get the building rocking.
With attendees firmly hooked, the Black Keys turned their attention to the additions to their repertoire since COVID took hold. For five straight songs, Dan, Patrick, and their bunch were joined on stage by guitarist Kenny Brown and bassist Eric Deaton to perform cuts from 2021’s Delta Kream. The band didn’t get to tour off the collection of hill country blues songs when it first came out due to the lingering pandemic, but they more than made up for it with a chunk of tracks that included “Stay All Night”, “Going Down South”, “Poor Boy a Long Way From Home”, and “Crawling Kingsnake”.
Amid all that catalog catchup, the Black Keys managed to sprinkle on some originals off of their latest release, 2022’s Dropout Boogie. The group managed to slip in “It Ain’t Over”, “Your Team Is Looking Good”, and “Wild Child” with ease. Those tracks, along with most of the album, fit so seamlessly into their oeuvre, especially following their brief foray into psychedelia with 2014’s Turn Blue.
That unmistakable style of blues-rock made its way into the mainstream with 2010’s Brothers and 2011’s El Camino, both of which factored prominently into the Black Keys’ setlist at the Forum. The latter comprised the band’s encore of “Little Black Submarine” and “Lonely Boy”, with “Gold on the Ceiling” making an appearance during the first half of the main set. The former, meanwhile, contributed a whopping six tracks to the proceedings, including “Next Girl”, “Tighten Up”, and “Howlin’ For You.”
In truth, the Black Keys have never strayed far from their blues-rock roots, either before or since their explosion in popularity during the early 2010s. Instead, they have planted their flag firmly in the realm of Delta blues while making it their own. That’s why songs like “Have Love Will Travel” from 2003’s Thickfreakness fit so comfortably next to ones like “Lo/Hi” off of 2019’s Let’s Rock.
That commitment to a consistent style has, in turn, helped to foster a fanbase that can comfortably support an arena tour like the one the band is on right now. Such is no small feat in this day and age, what with rock in all of its forms continuing to slide behind pop, electronic dance music, and hip hop, among other genres, in terms of broader musical popularity.
But the Black Keys’ ongoing tour is just the latest exhibit in an ever-lengthening list to indicate that, perhaps, rock is anything but dead. Dan, Patrick, and their crew will certainly do their part to keep pushing that narrative as they continue their current outing. After closing out the southwestern leg of their run, the band will continue on to Arkansas and Texas before wrapping things up back in their home state of Ohio.
Where things go from there, only Dan and Patrick know. But one thing, at least, seems certain: the next step for the Black Keys will feature plenty of crunchy, Delta-inspired blues rock to keep the band’s followers bobbing and headbanging for years to come.
Setlist: The Black Keys | Kia Forum | Inglewood, CA | 10/8/22
Set: I Got Mine, Howlin’ for You, Fever, Tighten Up, Your Touch, It Ain’t Over, Gold On The Ceiling, Stay All Night (Junior Kimbrough), Going Down South (R.L. Burnside), Poor Boy a Long Way From Home (John Fahey), Crawlin’ Kingsnake (John Lee Hooker), Have Love, Will Travel (Richard Berry), Lo/Hi, Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Ten Cent Pistol, Your Team Is Looking Good, Wild Child, She’s Long Gone
Encore: Little Black Submarines, Lonely Boy