Black Keys, Wilton's Music Hall, London

Wilton's Music Hall, London

Given that Black Keys are a US duo playing retro blues-rock, it's inevitable that they be compared to the White Stripes. True, the Ohio duo lack the boy-girl sexual intrigue and colour-coding of their more famous Detroit counterparts. But Black Keys share the White Stripes' penchant for stripped-down rock'n'roll and primal blues-based riffs, with dashes of thrash.

Small, bearded and lank-haired, singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach is an oddly compelling frontman, with the air of a wild little troglodyte. Drummer Patrick Carney has a similar approach to rhythm as Meg White: always seemingly behind the beat, with a pleasantly dragging effect.

On their latest album, Attack and Release, Black Keys teamed up with Gorillaz/Gnarls Barkley producer Danger Mouse, who had initially approached them to provide songs for an Ike Turner album. It was the first time the band had recorded in a proper studio, and Danger Mouse - a songwriter and remixer in his own right - was bound to bring a few tricks to Black Keys' less-is-more aesthetic. But little or no technology was used in the production of this concert. There is no organ, banjo or synthesiser; the only accoutrement is a tambourine that Carney uses to bash his drums.

Instead, it's raw, grinding, swampy blues-rock all the way. On Strange Times, Black Keys achieve a Led Zeppelin-like density of sound. Auerbach switches between lead and rhythm, all the while on the same guitar. Sometimes he stops playing altogether to make way for Carney's plodding, primitive whomp. Every now and again, the two engage in a duel. It's limited, but thrillingly so.

· At the Astoria, London, on May 19. Box office: 020-7434 0403. Then touring.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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