SPAC-bound Black Keys learn to succeed in stride


A lot has happened since The Black Keys was originally scheduled to arrive at SPAC in August 2020.

At the time, the blues-rock duo were on tour in support of their ‘Let’s Rock’ album. Sure, COVID has put the kibosh on this show, but that hasn’t slowed the duo down. Now, the SPAC show is back for Wednesday, but the Black Keys will be bringing a bunch of new stuff with them.

Last year, the Black Keys released “Delta Kream”, a collection of covers by RL Burnside. May saw the release of “Dropout Boogie”, a set of original tracks. For vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, recording new music was a crucial part of getting through a chaotic two-year period.

“Reconciling the past two years is impossible for my brain,” Carney said. “We were in a unique position; I think of all the bands that broke away for the first time and all of their canceled tours. He derailed so many (expletive) bands. Watching this happen was just brutal.

“I’m grateful that we’ve released more music and that we’re not just sitting here doing nothing,” he continued. “I’m excited to be on the road. My son is almost 4 and has no idea what that means. I was a (expletive) hermit. I have a 4 month old daughter, (wife) Michelle (Branch) had a miscarriage before that so it was basically a year and a half pregnancy and we all had COVID last fall. Yeah, music is the least stressful thing in my life; 10 years ago, it was the source of all my stress.

The moment Carney is referring to is the “crazy times” from 2012 to 2015, when the Black Keys made the jump to arena rock headlining. They had been around for a decade by then, touring and recording tirelessly, to the point of exhaustion. The group stuck to it and achieved an unexpected level of commercial success. Instead of taking a well-deserved break, the pace of the tour remained aggressive and the shows kept getting bigger. For Carney, trying to rationalize the jump in popularity hasn’t been easy.

“I look back and it was just a blur, we were watching (2010 album) ‘Brothers’ do way better than anything we had released and the band’s popularity take off,” he recalled. “We got burned out on that tour and canceled the tour and went into the studio to do ‘El Camino’ and actually doubled down and got more popular.

“We were poor winners to some extent, and I know I didn’t take it very well because it just wasn’t how it was meant to be,” Carney added. “We went from Mercury Lounge to headlining Madison Square Garden and for me it was like, ‘Am I worthy of this?’ The way I responded was, “Some of the worst bands in music history have played live here.” If Rusted Root can, so can we.

On the other hand, to give meaning to the realization of such a profile, Carney and Auerbach are perfectly prepared for this status to change eventually.

“It’s a fine line; alternatively, you have to be comfortable with your popularity declining,” Carney said. “You can’t be everything to everyone at once.”

Instead of clinging to fame, the duo are focusing on what brought them together over 20 years ago: a mutual love for writing and performing music.

Carney and Auerbach grew up in the same neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, and knew each other in school. In 1996 they started playing together and making music, “learning to get along” over time.

“I spent more time with him than with my family the first two years of the band,” Carney said. “The hardest part, the thing that kills groups, is when people feel limited by each other. We’ve learned to relax and open up to each other as we go. had more success.

“We learned to accept the fact that the Dan or Patrick of 2022 are going to have to be different from the versions of 20 years ago,” he continued. “We are closer than we have ever been. We understand that we are our own people and have that nuance with each other.

Finding that space as individuals and maintaining their connection allowed the Black Keys to set limits on what the group did and avoid the fatigue that set in during their commercial breakthrough. While they used to hit the road behind an album for long stretches, this year’s summer tour for “Dropout Boogie” only has 32 concerts in the United States.

The added benefit of limiting the number of shows they play is that it’s easier for the duo to find creative fulfillment and to constantly write and record new content.

“We love to make music and play, but we worry about burning out. We’ve seen so many bands use it,” Carney said. “The integrity of the band in its original form, the chemistry and energy that exists on stage and on a record, that’s all.

“Fleetwood Mac haven’t recorded anything since 1987, but I feel like they’ve been on tour every summer of my (expletive) life,” he continued. “Dan and I are always trying to make music that we think is vital in some way. It’s essential to us. Otherwise, we’d be closing up shop.

The black keys

with special guests Band of Horses and Ceramic Animal

When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 20

Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Route 50,


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