The Black Keys/ The Maccabees
The O2 Arena, London
The O2 Arena is a strange venue. Despite the majority of its 20,000 capacity being dedicated to the dizzying heights of the seating areas, something about the all-round corporate horror of the place (there’s approximately three take-away vendors to every bar) seems to inflict a lot more sedate an atmosphere on even the actually-quite-reasonable-sized standing pit. It’s a weird, and often frustrating, position to be in. Particularly tonight.
Despite having filled out Alexandra Palace mere months before (that’s 10,000 stander uppers – far more than at this venue), The Maccabees‘ support slot tonight comes greeted with the kind of stationary apathy that borderline veers on upsetting. Given the year that the quintet have had – one that saw them release easily one of the best albums of the last twelve months, get nominated for the Mercury Prize, slay the live circuit and finally prove themselves to be the national treasures we always knew they could be – it’s pretty crap to see their final gig of 2012 go out with such a fizzle. It’s not their fault at all. ‘Forever I’ve Known’ is still as heartbreakingly atmospheric as the first time we heard it, whilst the likes of ‘Can You Give It?’ and a final, rousing ‘Pelican’ hint that they could actually fill this space as headliners pretty soon. But, given the total lack of atmosphere involved, would a band built on heart and rousing, cathartic community really even want to do that? Hopefully not.
The Black Keys fare better. Though their schtick is based in the grit of old school, bluesy rock’n'roll, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are a far more polished product these days than their genre necessarily dictates. It may seem ridiculous that the duo are selling out venues of this size, but, from the stomp of ‘Gold On The Ceiling’ or ‘Money Maker’ to the giant, lit-up sign that bears their name, the duo genuinely make sense in these surrounds. If there’s one criticism to be made, it’s that at this scale there’s a certain level of sex appeal that’s lost, but the hit rate on offer proves they’ve more than earned their spot. ‘Next Girl’ prowls along on giant-sized riffs, ‘Little Black Submarines’ smoulders and howls in equal measure and a final, extended ‘I Got Mine’ shows there’s still enough sass there to keep the purists happy.