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July 7, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Live Review: The Black Keys

The Black Keys
Friday 27th June
at The Front Room

I have always loved the blues. As a teenager the dark, brooding, vaguely satanic sounds that Robert Johnson and Skip James could get from just a guitar and voice kept me up late, while I tried to work out how they managed to play those incredibly complex rhythms on old battered guitars and sing, like it wasn’t no thing. Effortless. A brief dabble with some of the late sixties guitar blues heroes left me disillusioned. As far as I was concerned the blues ended in the Mississippi circa 1940 – anything later was mimicry, an anaemic derivative of true artistry. Then I chanced upon the Black Keys. It boomed upstairs from big old speaker, drums pounding and cymbals punished, high hats mashed into weird angles by a towering bespectacled drummer. Guitar that chugs squelchy low end sheets, then shears off into kaleidoscopic squeals. And that voice! Lyrics just as indecipherable, pleading howls and rasping moans, and holy shit he’s white!

Now years later they turn up on our shores, and better yet they’re playing at the underutilised but excellent Front Room. A brief bag search by the friendly bouncer had me cursing my failure to sneak in a gentle whisky under the old cloak. (We are living in a depression, you know). And with tickets going for $50, I was left raking through the collected tobacco scum in my bag for the coinage to secure a warm export gold in a paper cup (urgh). A confession: I completely missed the first band. I mean I was there, but by the time beers were brought, old friends greeted and layer upon layer of clothing removed, they had finished. No idea what they were called but people seemed to be into it.

The Black Keys themselves? Truly rockin’. They took the stage and immediately fired off three uppity numbers from earlier albums, including the sublime When The Lights Go Out. They had the capacity crowd jumping to the choruses and singing along, just like good rock and roll should. From the balcony the people were an ecstatic, sweaty mess. There was no respite, either. As soon as one glorious, bourbon soaked, garage blues tune ended, they kicked straight into a Hendrixesque psychedelic exploration.

Dan Auerbach is a superb guitarist. He had the best live distortion sound I’ve ever heard, and I was pretty impressed that he didn’t once use a pick. Drummer Patrick Carney is a behemoth. It was as if he was trying to hit through the drum kit into the stage beneath him. Which brings me to my only complaint: it was crazy loud. The overall sound was excellent, but even standing way up the back I had to have earplugs in. I know this is de rigeuer these days but sheessh, my ears were still ringing on Monday morning. Nonetheless, I contentedly stumbled off into the night in search of a sweet g & t and savoured the buzz that continued to course through my veins.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Robbo 24 says:

    Lol there wasn’t any export gold being served there, and there was no first band.

    You weren’t even there bro.

  2. Wee Hamish says:

    why the fuck do nubs reply to these old as fuck reviews with smarmy smug comments

    fuck off robbo you clown

  3. Jenna the Bassist says:

    Robbo’s right, you weren’t there. YOu were wanking off in your room to the deformed Milton twins’ porn site, you filthy beggar. I know because was watching you through the keyhole… wee Hamish indeed ;)

    …and you really shouldn’t eat it LOL

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