Hearing a sold-out Vector Arena crowd scream and stamp their feet for an encore makes you appreciate how far the Black Keys have come since playing Auckland's little old Kings Arms Tavern in 2005.

Back then singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney were a fiery and raw two man power house. And despite being a four piece these days when they play live, with the addition of bass player Gus Seyffert and multi-instrumentalist John Wood, it's still very much the Auerbach and Carney show.

It's not like their music has changed much over the years either, because it's still rooted in scorching and heavy blues rock with a hip-hop swagger. But it just so happens, in the last two years especially, off the back of brilliant break-through album Brothers and last year's mega-selling El Camino and catchy single, Lonely Boy, they have become one of the world's most popular bands.

And it's songs off those two records that makes up the majority of their 90 minute show on the band's third visit to New Zealand (after canceling a Big Day Out performance in 2011).


Starting with the thumping hip-hop blues of Howlin' For You off Brothers, it then takes in everything from the eerie groove of Ten Cent Pistol, banging roof-raiser Gold On the Ceiling and, best of all, Little Black Submarines, which escalates from an acoustic serenade to a wild and noisy epic with an all-in crowd sing-a-long.

Early in the show Carney and Auerbach play a clutch of older songs as a duo, including the squalling blues of Thickfreakness and a raucous rendition of Your Touch, which takes you back to the raw power of their earlier days. The sound they conjure up is immense for two humble chaps from Akron, Ohio.

The songs explode with distortion, passion and intensity as Auerbach lunges and launches into the riffs, while Carney lays into his drum kit with a mix of simmering subtlety and brute force.

Of course, Lonely Boy, with its distinctive twanging intro, and tonight it comes complete with an extra dose of hammering and shredding, gets everyone dancing and doing their best impression of Derrick T. Tuggle (the guy from the video clip). Well, a few people are at least, because the rest are just going crazy at Auerbach's request.

For the encore a giant disco ball descends from the ceiling for delightful ditty Everlasting Light before the unhinged feedback and fuzz of I Got Mine to end.

"It feels amazing in here, thank you very much," says a genuinely chuffed Auerbach.
The Black Keys have played a lot of shows in the last year since the release of El Camino, but there is nothing jaded about this performance. They are slick, heavy and better than ever.

Next stop, total world domination, because they're that good.