The Black Keys
The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater
April 18, 2010
Better Than: Being stuck between rock and a hard place
There was one moment during The Black Keys' Fillmore Miami Beach set that entirely defined what the Akron combo does to and for this thing called rock music. It came in the latter third of "Your Touch," after Dan Auerbach had completely shredded the frets of his Les Paul and Patrick Carney had banged him into a brief interlude. Auerbach paused, mid thrash, and played the song's signature riff twice, with no accompaniment. Then he let slip a quick "Hey!" which kicked it all back into a glorious roar. It was an off-the-cuff verbal shrug that re-launched an onslaught; equal parts "get this!" and "let's go!" And it epitomized the band's innate frenzy.
It's a frenzy born of hard rock and harder places, a heartland sound that owes as much to the rural blues as it does to the rust that's corroding our flyover cities. Sonically, it's as much a warm roar as it as cold sweat, a punch to the midsection, a kick to the head, and a fist to the face of all that's pretentious, pompous or just plain puny. And it just may be the last best hope to hear how rock should be heard that we'll ever have.
That this mighty racket cracks from a two-piece only makes it that much more admirable. There's Auerbach with nothing but a microphone, a guitar, an amp and a couple small side speakers. And there's Carney, pounding a stripped down drum kit right by Auerbach's side. They're the twin pillars that hold up what's undoubtedly the heaviest hard rock ringing ears today, and the Fillmore Gleason crowd ate up every moment of it.
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As always I won't pretend to know which song came when. I will tell you that they let loose with "Strange Times," "I Got Mine" and the aforementioned "Your Touch," and that each was infinitely better than their respective recordings. Considering those recordings are some of the best ever made, that's saying something indeed.
I'll also tell you that I had the great good privilege of catching the first two songs from the photo pit. And to stand between one roar (The Keys) and another (the crowd) was to be blown right outta the sky. I've caught a lot of shows in my time -- thousands -- but I can count on two hands the number of times I've caught actual magic. Last night at The Fillmore Gleason at the foot of The Black Keys was one of those times. And as I predicted in my preview, it was unforgettable.
Personal Bias: I was raised on four-on-the-floor hard rock, and I'm still a sucker for the crunch.
Random Detail: Not even a full-blown torrent could damper the excitement of The Black Keys' Miami debut. Though Auerbach did say "the weather didn't work out" for them.
By the Way: The Black Keys' new LP, Brothers, is racking in mid May. You owe it to yourself to own it.