(video after the jump) Black Keys Live at the Crystal Ballroom is a solid hour of some of the best The Black Keys have ever offered.
It captures their stage presence perfectly and showcases one of the best blues/rock revival bands around. Lead singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach’s gritty voice and effortless riffs combine in perfect unison with drummer Patrick Carney’s impeccable timing and rabid pace.
This is a must-buy for any serious rock or blues fan – and in my opinion for any serious music fan. This band will prove to be an important evolution in the world of music and every opportunity should be taken to see them whenever, wherever possible. And if you need further confirmation of the impact of The Black Keys, check out this Rolling Stone article.
Unfortunately, it might be that The Black Keys’ days are numbered. Auerbach is releasing a solo album and touring without Carney, who has been focused on his Audio Eagle label. While that may be the case, this DVD is timeless.
The video below is from the same show, but not from the DVD – it has much better sound and video quality.
Start browsing by entering an artist or song, or browse by genre, lyrics, decade or free downloads. I started with Rock, narrowed it down to Indie Rock, then set “Flavor Filters” (parameters) of Mellow and Medium Slow. My results included songs by Modest Mouse, Blur, Cake, Beck, Gomez, , Spoon and a host of others, including some I’ve never heard before. If you click “one-click” next to any of the results, you’ll get a new list that closely resembles the sound of that artist/song. If you click on any of the songs, you’ll see a listing of other videos, and some of the “Flavors” associated with that song – useful for future searches. Similarly, click on the artist name and get more videos by them and the “Artist Flavors.” Hit the “Play This Page” button and a small pop-out window appears where videos of the songs play from the generated playlist in a small widget that you can also embed on your blog or website.
The videos are all from YouTube and, as such, you get a mixed bag. You’ll find the real videos from the artists, but you might also find some recordings from Conan O’Brien or other live recordings – not a bad thing, in my opinion. That said, everything I saw (with few exceptions) was of a very high quality, unlike many other sites out there. On the down side, the volume from one video to the next would sometimes change. You can choose to skip the ones you don’t like.
Search by lyrics by choosing from emotions, such as loneliness. My search for Loneliness and a genre of Blues included Clapton, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and … Indigo Girls. Too bad there’s not a sub-genre of “my baby left me and took the dog too,” but hey, nobody’s perfect.
One of my favorite search options is by decade. I chose 1970s with Flavor Filters of “Folk” and “Contemporary” and got a list with Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and . , Kansas,
A really cool feature of Soundflavor lets you upload any of your iTunes playlists, then get back a corresponding video playlist.
Finally, like most sites these days, there are social features. You can build a profile (where you can alter and save playlists), search for and make friends and share playlists.
After using Soundflavor, I have to say it’s fun. I think it’s a good tool for music discovery – there’s seemingly no end to the filters and options. But I’m still partial to Pandora, for no other reason than it’s ease-of-use. I can open my browser and start listening without a click. If I get bored, a couple clicks starts a new station and I’m back to doing other things. But if you have the time and feel like exploring, Soundflavor delivers the goods.
The Smashing Pumpkins triumphant return to Chicago started on an ominous note. At their first of four shows, Billy Corgan chastised the audience for not being “into it” enough. That didn’t go over so well. Come Friday, I didn’t know what to expect.
When Billy came out in what looked like a wedding dress and some sort of halo-crown-japanese fan-type device on his head, I have to say, I wasn’t surprised. It kind of reminds me of Liberace and, who knows, a similar revelation might be down the road. But I digress. The headpiece came off and the gold coat, to reveal his signature “Zero” shirt and apprehensive applause from the audience. The show had begun and so emerged several revelations about this latest version of the Smashing Pumpkins.
- Jimmy Chamberlin remains a top-flight percussionist. The show opened with a drum solo (unusual) and it was great. Chamberlin was smooth and he remains the engine that drives the Pumpkins.
- Billy Corgan hasn’t lost his penchant for pushing boundaries. This set was hard, heavy and fast. Billy has been practicing his guitar because there were several solos and even some shredding. It wasn’t the Pumpkins I’m used to, but I actually enjoyed this new sound. And I can appreciate any artist that decides its more important to innovate than simply appease the masses.
- The “old” Pumpkins are still the favorite. “Tonight, Tonight” was one of the highlights of the night (that’s a lot of ‘ight’s'). And I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. Their new stuff is interesting, their old stuff is iconic.
- Even though ill (Saturday’s show was postponed), Billy wanted to deliver. Corgan is an interesting beast: he’s defiant, yet craves approval. He made a point to tell us he was sick, and disappointed that he couldn’t perform for us the way he wanted to. Yet, his primal scream during “Rat in a Cage” was intense, and my personal highlight. It must have taken a lot out of him – and it was worth it.
- Chicago loves, hates … and fears Billy Corgan. The audience clearly knew about Billy’s hissy fit from Tuesday. Applause was dished out liberally, sometimes before songs ended. And it’s not because the audience was confused, it was because they didn’t want to be ridiculed. Or did they? Billy returned in kind by telling us we were a great audience, much better than Tuesday. “They don’t know what rock and roll is,” he said. “But you do.” Awww, thanks Billy.
It was the Pumpkins in Chicago. A very good show, not a great show. But hey, I’ll see them time and time again. Do I feel obligated? Maybe. But I never know what I’m going to get, and I like that.