The Black Keys Concert Review – Cleveland

(Video and audio after the jump) Every now and then I discover a band that reminds me why I love music so much. Not long ago, that band was The Black Keys. So when my brother called asking if I’d be interested in taking a quick trip to Cleveland to see the rock/blues duo, I jumped on it. We booked our flights and got our tickets to see them at the Agora Theater, near their hometown of Akron, Ohio. We also made a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Black Keys are often likened to The White Stripes, probably because they are both two-person bands and they both rock. But The Black Keys have a much different sound – it’s dirty and unmistakably blues. Guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach’s rugged and soulful voice, combined with his mastery of rhythmic blues guitar (Robert Johnson is one of his influences) and Patrick Carney’s explosive drumming make these guys powerful and hypnotic.

patrickcarneyThey played much of their most popular music including, Same Old Thing, 10 AM Automatic, Girl is on My Mind, Your Touch, Psychotic Girl and a ripping Stack Shot Billy. Every one of their songs has a steady beat that sometimes grows frantic, sometimes lays low but always leaves people grooving. In most bands, the drummer is overlooked. Not here. Patrick Carney is every bit as important to The Black Keys as Auerbach, and simply a joy to watch. He is passionate, and pounds the skins when he needs to and gently taps them when appropriate. And instead of simply keeping a rhythm, he creates new ones throughout every song. Auerbach plays effortlessly – sometimes playing a few bars with one hand – and is one of those musicians that makes you feel music is playing him, not the other way around.

The venue, Agora Theater, is historic and a cool place to see a show. You’ll find that most great bands that pass through Cleveland will make a stop here. It was rebuilt after a fire in the 80’s and looks like it hasn’t been touched since. But, after the show, you can walk across the hall to the Agora Ballroom, where on this night The Doctor Teeeth were playing. And they were pretty good too – guitarist Rusty Boyer has some real talent. Then, on your way out you pass through a diner with late-night food and another small band playing in the corner. My only real complaint was with the sound system. They were having problems early on and never seemed to get Auerbach’s microphone right. That said, the next time I’m in Cleveland I’ll look to see who is playing there.

Sitting next to us in some VIP seats, I’m convinced were Auerbach’s parents. The woman was singing along to every song, and had a head of red hair and eyes that match Dan’s. The man was fairly bald but with a bushy beard. Of course, I’m speculating, but it looked right.

Below is some video from the show – don’t forget to click the lower right of the player and select HQ for better quality. And if you really want to see them live and at their best, get Black Keys Live at the Crystal Ballroom.

Want to read more about The Black Keys and see some reviews for upcoming shows? Check out The Black Keys Fan Lounge.

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