The Black Keys hit Target Center on Tuesday, just two short years after they last played First Avenue. Childhood pals Dan Auerbach (singer/guitarist) and Patrick Carney (drummer) also added more bravado and brawn to their latest record, "El Camino," as if they were making it with arenas in mind.
Auerbach, however, denies that was the case.
"We were just trying to make catchy rock 'n' roll songs," he said. "We weren't really thinking about venues while we were recording. We're not calculating enough to do that."
Here is Auerbach's report from the road.
Q: How are the Black Keys different playing to 10,000-20,000 people vs. 200?
A: It doesn't matter, honestly. It all comes down to audience participation. If the audience is into it, whether there's 150 people or 20,000, it's going to be great. If the audience is just standing there and not into it, then it's going to be boring.
Q: You guys expanded to a four-piece on your last tour but then went back to just the two of you to record "El Camino." How and when do you decide to work as a duo?
A: It was never a shtick for us, being a two-piece band. It's more entertaining for me as a musician to be able to come out and play as a four-piece and as a two-piece. The parts we play as a two-piece feel that much more special, and when we turn into a four-piece it feels that much bigger. We think it's a cool thing, and we feel lucky to get to do it.
Q: Why did you move to Nashville and build your studio there before "El Camino"?
A: I wanted to get out of Akron [Ohio], but I didn't want to go to New York or L.A. or anywhere that's cold in winter like Akron. Right after the flood [in Nashville in May 2010], I went there and hung out with my buddy Patrick Keeler of the Greenhornes and Raconteurs. He showed me around, and it felt great. So I gave Nashville a shot, and it's been nothing but amazing. Then, three or four months after I moved there, Pat made the jump from New York. He lives right down the street now.
Q: CBS's "Sunday Morning" filmed you guys getting into your Akron high school's hall of fame.
A: It was bizarre. I hadn't been there since I graduated, and nothing had changed. [The hall of fame] is actually pretty impressive: Chrissie Hynde [of the Pretenders] is in it, the woman astronaut in the space shuttle Challenger explosion [Judith Resnik] and a couple guys from Devo.
Q: CBS asked your dad about encouraging you guys early on. He said, "How can you not support hard work and passion?" How perfect was that?
A: That was good, and true. He supported us from the beginning. I remember Pat's drum kit exploding at one of our very first gigs, and he gave us money to go buy nice drum hardware. And yeah, it's always been about that. I don't do this because I want to be a rock star. I'm a musician, and it's what I love to do.