Live Review: Black Keys @ 9:30 Club, May 12

I’ve said it before and I know I’ll say it again: quite frankly, the Black Keys are the finest rock band touring today. For reasons I can’t figure out, the White Stripes get far more love, but if you want a rocking good time that will blow your freaking doors off, look no further than the duo of Dan Auerbach (vox and guitar) and Patrick Carney (skins). These two will rock you harder in an hour than most bands can accomplish in a year.

I literally walked into the door of the 9:30 Club last night as the boys took the stage for what proved to be another scorcher, the first of a two night gig kicking off their East Coast tour. (And I’ve got tickets to night two, too. You can begin feeling jealous whenever you please). Playing in front of a vintage rock light show and an over sized, inflated rubber tire emblazoned with the band’s name and Akron, Ohio, Auerbach quickly acknowledged the crowd and then launched into it.

The Keys played crowd favorites all night long, from their original album, The Big Come Up, (Busted) to their latest, Attack & Release (Strange Times). In between, the crowd was treated to such tracks as “10 A.M. Automatic”, “Stack Shot Billy,” “Set You Free” and “You’re the One”, pretty much hitting the high points of their entire catalogue. Personally, I would have loved to have heard “Grown So Ugly”, but what can you do?

Now, for those of you that have never seen the Keys perform live before, Carney beats the drums like he walked in on them sleeping with his girlfriend. The man must go through a dozen drum sticks a night. He reminds me of a current day John Bonham, doing more with a small drum kit than most marching bands do with an entire percussion section. Auerbach looks more and more like Chris Robinson every time I see him, but he plays guitar like a blues master and has a voice that sounds roughly 40 years older than he is. Combined, the two create a scuzzy, garage-blues-rock sound that should be the envy of every kid interested in becoming a rock star. Again, screw the White Stripes, the Black Keys are where it’s at.

The boys played for about an hour before taking a brief break and returning for a quick encore. While there was not a great deal of audience patter between songs, these guys let their instruments do the talking for them. And speak well they did.

As Auerbach pointed out about midway through the set, “We’re going to play more songs tomorrow night, but we’re going to play better this evening.” I’ll have to let you know how Night Two goes, but he wasn’t messing around with his take on Night One’s pyrotechnics.

For those of you that would like to hear for yourself the Black Keys’ second night in DC, NPR has been kind enough to stream the show for your listening pleasure:

I’m the guy screaming. And one of the half naked fans he mentions. In case you were wondering.

[Photo by Todd M. Duym]

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