NEW YORK — Given, well, everything about the Black Keys, they're probably not the first band that comes to mind when you think of "global ambassadors."
And yet, after a decade of grinding it out, and a string of hits that stretches back three albums — at least — they've become one of the most popular rock acts on the planet (even though they'd probably never admit it), which is why they seemed such a natural fit for Saturday night's Global Citizen Festival, the culmination of the Global Poverty Project's campaign to end extreme poverty around the world.
Of course, in keeping with their blue-collar roots, they didn't use their time on stage to discuss politics. instead, they simply rolled up their sleeves (or, in frontman Dan Auerbach's case, tossed off his leather jacket) and tore through a set of searing, hard-riffing rock, one that had the 60,000 who packed Central Park's Great Lawn losing their collective minds.
Kicking things off with "Howlin' For You," the Keys ran roughshod through their back catalog, making stops at slow-burners like "Next Girl" and "Nova Baby," going full-throttle through chortling chuggers like "Just The Same Old Thing" and "Gold on the Ceiling," and letting things boil over on fuzzed-out hits like "Little Black Submarines" and "Lonely Boy."
Auerbach spent the set pulling elastic solos out of his menagerie of axes, and drummer Patrick Carney — who, organizers pointed out to MTV News, had just come back from his honeymoon — based with reckless abandon. Aided by their backing band, they blasted through muscly songs like "Moneymaker" and "Tighten Up," and, by the time their hour was up, had the throngs wanting more.
With a lineup that boasted sets from the Foo Fighters and Neil Young with Crazy Horse, they were sure to get even more. But for 60 minutes, the Black Keys held the thousands in their hands, rocked hard, and didn't let up for a single instance. Charity concerts should always be this awesome. And this unassuming.