Glastonbury Day 3: The Black Keys

Sunday evening, with the finish line in sight, and Glastonbury has still got the blues.

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Sunday evening, with the finish line in sight, and Glastonbury has still got the blues.

The Black Keys are playing the same penultimate Pyramid Stage slot as Jack White filled on Saturday, and it is impossible to avoid drawing parallels between these bitching Nashville neighbours. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney last played Worthy Farm four years ago as a ragged power duo. Tonight they bring backing musicians, eye-popping psychedelic visuals derived from their “Turn Blue” album artwork, and a truckload of Grammy-winning confidence. But the devil on my shoulder still tells me that Jack White won this battle.


Where White’s set was incendiary and melodramatic, Auerbach and Carney stay crisp and contained. Where their nemesis channelled the explosive showmanship of Screaming Jay Hawkins and Little Richard, the Keys focus on the muscular minimalism of their increasingly soulful, riff-heavy sound. Even in their new smoothed-down form, they can still pack serious clout, especially on bad-ass wallops like “Lonely Boy” and a surprisingly jaunty “Fever”.

But this show exudes a pedestrian kind of professionalism, borrowing heavily from the blues-rock pantheon as if there were no higher honour than playing Later With Jools Holland. There is no danger here, no dark depths, no hinterland of delicious delirium. And definitely none of that wild-haired, sexually incontinent, high-voltage voodoo that certain other performers use to reanimate the corpse of this doddery old retro-rock format. Auerbach and Carney play a solid bunch of songs at Glastonbury, but nothing more. Next time they will need to rise to the challenge that a bigger stage demands.

Stephen Dalton


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