By: Jim Welte
Dan Auerbach :: 03.13.09 :: Bimbo's 365 Club :: San Francisco, CA
Anyone who's been to a Black Keys show knows the deal. The Akron, Ohio-based duo of guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney take the stage, nod politely to the crowd, and proceed to dispatch a sonic freight train straight at you, fiercely overwhelming your senses with dirty, fuzzed-up blues and not letting go until your pleasure has morphed into astonishment. It's the music equivalent of "Shock and Awe."
With his first venture into solo territory on the just-released Keep It Hid (JamBase review), Auerbach has taken his foot off the gas a bit and expanded on his band's trademark sound. In a superb live set at Bimbo's 365 Club, Auerbach proved, much as Jack White of the White Stripes has in his forays with the Raconteurs, that he is a bluesman who has blossomed into a whole lot more.
Backed by San Antonio rock outfit Hacienda and with My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan on percussion, Auerbach's growth was evident from the start. He opened with "Trouble Weighs A Ton," a gospel-inflected beauty about missteps: "What's wrong, dear brother, have you lost faith/ Don't you remember a better place/ Needles and things have done you in/ Like the setting sun."
But lest anyone think the freight train conductor had gone all soft and somber, Auerbach quickly launched into "I Want Some More," a track written by Wayne Carson Thompson and made famous by '60s pop duo Jon & Robin. Auerbach turned the original on its ear, giving it bounce with a ska-infused rhythm and some Keys-esque distorted guitar sludge. A line like "I'm just a kid in your walk-in candy store/ Oh, oh, oh I want some more" took on a sinister tone under Auerbach's growl.
Other tracks like "The Prowl" and "Mean Monsoon" slathered on the grit, drenching the latter in humid '60 style psychedelia. Almost all of the songs were grounded in the blues, and the five-piece backing band, in the penultimate show of a two-week tour, was incredibly taut and adeptly filled out the aural landscape behind Auerbach.
But, it was the few songs that strayed from the blues that proved the evening's revelation, showcasing Auerbach's voice, which spends most of its time with Carney between a growl and a howl. In interviews, Auerbach has downplayed his voice, saying that his father encouraged him to sing in public as a kid and to just sing naturally.
In the latter half of the nearly 90-minute set, Auerbach and company played "Goin' Home" and "When the Night Comes," two sparse, almost dreamy tracks that let him show off a singing style that was lilting, soulful and full of feeling. This bluesman can wield his inner songbird as well as his axe.
Dan Auerbach solo dates available here. The Black Keys tour dates can be found here. And look for an interview with Auerbach on JamBase in the near future, where he discusses his love of early rock 'n' roll, his home studio and other details about this new solo venture.
JamBase | San Francisco
Go See Live Music!