This wasn't any ordinary Monday. I didn't wake up dreading the day or dealing with the usual feeling of treachery and exhaustion starting another Monday grind. While that's probably because I was at my sister's apartment in Brooklyn‚ not stuck working in a mundane office‚ I squealed with excitement when I awoke from my slumber on a Monday I will never forget.
7:15 P.M. was the time I approached the Garden among the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. I could feel the human-made energy surrounding me. The city was alive with the sound of cars‚ flashing lights and passersby. Noise pollution and over stimulation at its finest‚ but what did I care? I was going to see the mother fucking Black Keys at one of the nation's premiere concert and sporting events arenas in New York City!
When I entered the lower lobby of the Garden‚ attendees flocked to the merch tables. Loving all the logo and print designs‚ I couldn't resist so I bought myself a Black Keys at MSG tee since I wanted a tangible reminder. Little did I know I wouldn't need one.
Arriving at our seats in section 315‚ we were facing the side stage. Feeling a bit bummed and disheartened‚ I slumped in my chair and scowled. However‚ once the music began I immediately disregarded the crappy location of my seat.
With the arena sparsely filled as Garden goers slowly made their way inside the arena‚ the Arctic Monkeys promptly took the stage at 8 p.m. Clad in all black and leather‚ these British rockers impressed me with tunes I've never taken time to listen to. They complemented fast‚ thrashing rhythms with surf garage guitar riffs and punk rock attitude. Sitting aisle side in a barren row J‚ I resisted the urge to move towards the lower railing and dance maniacally. Instead‚ I enviously eyed the bobbing heads on the floor while smiling and sipping my beer‚ tapping my foot and nodding my head. Not necessarily music for a mosh-pit but standing in a smaller venue would've been the ideal way to experience the Arctic Monkeys. I enjoyed what I heard nonetheless. Besides‚ watching their behinds from a distance wasn't bad after all. Ending around 9 p.m. with their latest single‚ "R U Mine?" I instantly recognized the song‚ moved closer to the stage and took some pictures.
The main event was only moments away and we hoped our row didn't fill up so we could scooch over a few seats to have a slightly better view. At nine-thirty‚ all viewing sections at MSG were packed. Then the lights dimmed dramatically. The crowd started cheering. Beer buyers‚ bathroom breakers‚ and late arrivals hurried to their seats. Four figures emerged on stage. Patrick Carney (sans glasses) walked to his drum set located house left near the front of stage. Dan Auerbach merrily strapped on his guitar and grabbed the mic‚ standing front and center. He expressed how thrilled the group was to be playing at the Garden‚ especially since it's the Black Keys first headlining show at the arena.Supporting the duo was bassist Gus Seyffret and backing guitarist and keyboardist John Wood.
Everybody stood as the band initiated the night with a faster version of "Howlin' For You‚" a popular track frequently licensed for various television shows‚ movies‚ and video games. Having a beat being similar to Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Pt 2‚" a symbolic sports arena theme‚ the Brothers (2010) hit was a perfect opener at the historic Madison Square Garden. Carney sat hunched over‚ pounding away on his toms and Auerbach nailed the tremolo toned solo. Naturally the crowd sang along with the "da-da da dahh dahhh" lyrics and the speedy tempo remained steady for "Next Girl" and first El Camino track of the night "Run Right Back." Having additional cast members for the first few songs created sonic depth to the twosomes' early minimalist garage rock sound. After ending the latest radio ready single and NCAA March Madness theme song "Gold On the Ceiling‚" Seyffret and Wood exited the stage. Auerbach and Carney were rightfully left to their own devices‚ which meant OLDER MATERIAL!
Kicking it old school was what long-time loyal Keys fans were looking for. MSG's atmosphere quieted and the attentiveness shifted to the intimate presentation on stage. The duo dabbled with material preceding the era of producer Danger Mouse‚ commencing with 2003 album's title track "Thickfreakness." People swayed and casually nodded their heads to the song's intro guitar riff‚ relishing in the glorious distorted fuzz tone of Auerbach's guitar. He howled into the mic with the swagger of a true blues musician. Carney's arms flailed up and down‚ beating wildly on the drums. Witnessing a prominent display of pure passionate performers playing on stage; this was rock and roll. I couldn't resist turning into that stereotypical screaming‚ excited fan girl‚ especially when they played‚ "I'll Be Your Man‚" the opening theme song for recently cancelled HBO series Hung‚ which is my favorite tune from their debut album The Big Come Up. Going straight into the powerful‚ hard hitting rhythms of "Your Touch‚" the Black Keys proved how it only takes two to tango at the Garden and they seemed right at home‚ just the two of them‚ building castles in the sky... errrr arena.
Then the lights dimmed and Auerbach was in the spotlight‚ playing acoustic guitar and soulfully singing the the first verse and chorus to "Little Black Submarines." Carney added some tambourine accompaniment and a subtle touch of organ rose in the background. A quick switch to electric guitar‚ chords similar to Tom Petty's "Last Dance With Mary Jane" and the full ensemble was back onstage‚ shifting from the ballad-field to a heavier realm.
For the rest of the night‚ the Black Keys and company gracefully hurried through additional El Camino material and ended their long‚ non-stop and upbeat set with the predictable and ever presently popular "Tighten Up" and "Lonely Boy." I'd say they were paying homage to songs that soared their way to success. The aisles and section dividers were filled with fans whistling‚ dancing‚ and singing to every lyric. I skipped down to the railings and got closer to the stage‚ smiling ear to ear while taking terribly focused pictures with my cellphone.
Saying their unofficial goodbyes and exiting the stage‚ nobody moved. Since everybody expected an encore‚ the rowdiness resonated without the Keys. We yearned for their return.
Suddenly‚ two behemoth disco balls were lowered from above the stage and mid-floor area. Nothing could've been executed and planned more perfectly for an encore of "Everlasting Light." Gleams of light reflected around the arena and we were all united by the sensational beauty of a clever audio and visual correlation. Performing "Long Gone" from Brothers and "I Got Mine" off Attack and Release‚ everything was in its right place.
Honestly‚ I probably felt emotionally equivalent to my prepubescent days of seeing Backstreet Boys or NSYNC in the nineties. Sitting far away from the stage in a upper level section: I sang‚ I danced‚ got goosebumps and marveled at the musicians onstage. But this experience was truly special. No obnoxious spectacles‚ no gimmicks -- just fantastic raw talent and musicianship in the form of rock and roll. In the name of the Black Keys.