Bournemouth's O2 Academy is a strange place, a former theatre, subsequently used as a nightclub, which has now been transformed into a gig venue. It's steeped in history with ornate balconies juxtaposed with an ultra modern refurbishment. It's that clash of old and new which perfectly mirrored The Black Keys' unique brand of blues-rock.
A lively set by New York indie rockers The Walkmen, played on a murky stage, failed to completely engage the sold out crowd. However as The Black Keys emerged and the opening strains of 'Thickfreakness' rang out, a strange sense of euphoria settled in the room. As Dan Auerbach sang, "Hold me, love me, in your heart.", the sense of excitement seemed almost tangible.
With Patrick Carney's drum kit sitting at the front of the stage alongside Auerbach, the space between the audience and the band seemed minimal. Comparisons to The White Stripes are inevitable both musically and with this set up on stage. But in honesty The Black Keys are less chaotic and more focused than Jack White's day job.
The set list delved into all areas of the bands impressive six album back catalogue, built over the last decade. Early cut 'The Breaks' illustrated that the duo were as comfortable playing hardened blues songs alongside the more pop influenced end of their spectrum, for example 'Tighten Up'.
Surprisingly for a band with such a unique and at times jarring sound, there was no stand out moment in the set. Song after song maintained the crowd's enthusiasm, punters weren't waiting for a particular track, they just seemed happy for the band to lead them through a potted history of The Black Keys. The appeal of these no nonsense musicians means that guitar solo's can be jammed out, giving the material more punch in a live setting, without it ever tipping into self indulgence.
Even when a bassist and keyboardist were brought on mid set to recreate the sound of recent album Brothers, it felt perfectly natural without detracting from the traditional blues aspects of some of the songs. By the time set closer 'I Got Mine' came around nearly 20 tracks had been played. The following 2 encores saw a particularly impassioned 'Your Touch' perfectly sum up the crowd's response to the band, "What I want, you got it", well indeed.