I think I let myself believe it would be the best show I’d see all year, this 2012-closing Black Keys show at The Joint. I let myself believe the crowd would be polite and easy-going and wearing a Patagonia outlet store’s worth of flannel. I let myself believe a lot of things. I let myself down.
First of all, it’s ridiculous to assume the crowd at a three-figure ticket show won’t have that stabbingly apparent sense of entitlement and “New Year’s Eve is basically my birthday!” attitude. The spot in which you stand should probably belong to them. Or at least their hyper-drunk dates. Or they might decide “making it rain” means pouring a drink off the balcony onto the crowd below. (To whoever dumped half a vodka-tonic on my shoulder: Go die.)
Second, neither Dan Auerbach nor Patrick Carney seemed all that stoked to be there. “Oh, they’re just too cool for school and that’s part of the act and —” no, shut up. I’ve seen them hungry. Like Oliver Twist hungry. This time they seemed over-fed, to stretch the metaphor. Like maybe their performance on the 30th was the climax and the 31st was a lackluster cuddle. Either way, none of the hits really hit. Don’t get me wrong: they played em: “Howlin’ For You,” “Next Girl,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Tighten Up,” “Lonely Boy.” And they were still fun. Words were sung. Rugs were cut. But the charm of The Black Keys, the raw energy, the musical connection between Auerbach and Carney, the sheer strength of a couple janitorial-looking Ohioans fucking burning that mother down, was somewhere else tonight — even when Auerbach counted down the last seconds of 2012 along with hundreds of chap-lipped revelers.
I think I know where the energy was: In opener Divine Fits’ set. The quartet, which includes Spoon’s Britt Daniel, New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown and Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner, was downright starving. Daniel and Boeckner were comfortably trading the spotlight all set, with the most in-the-pocket drumming of the year courtesy of Brown. And the power of the writing, featured prominently on 2012’s A Thing Called Divine Fits, made the stage — which could host a fourth-grade track and field event — feel completely full. We’d gladly go check them out again. The Black Keys, too, of course. But after they’ve gone hungry for a couple days.