Generally before a gig I’ll listen to the band exhaustively for a week or so to become familiar with their words and riffs. Unfortunately (due to unforeseen circumstances) I was restricted to only a couple of days for the Black Keys. So when searching on Spotify I panicked – there were a flurry of albums I was completely unaware of. For that reason I decided to take the trip to Sydney’s Entertainment Centre somewhat ‘naked’. Don’t get me wrong I know most of the classics but in the Black Keys’ early days, the duo seemed to churn out albums like they were going out of fashion. However, as I found out later, this turned out to be very beneficial.
Entering the half-sized Sydney Entertainment Centre I was quickly aware of an unusually towered line up of four Marshall amplifiers aiming to one central microphone. This could only mean one thing: the sound was going to be dominant. And indeed it was. Dan Auerbach’s Supro guitar resonated through the arena causing most of the crowd to scrunch up their faces as if they were at a rave. This was backed up by Patrick Carney’s booming bass drum. Being a drummer myself, I can confidently say that Carney is not the most fluent of beat masters, however he sure can hit the skin hard. The kit he was using must have been reinforced with local kangaroo leather the way he was thumping each barrel.
This developed an incredible sound that was backed up with two stand-in musicians. The classics were performed by all four on stage, however for most of the gig, Dan and Patrick stripped it down and the pair played as if they were in their garage 12 years ago.
I have to say the poor parents who dealt with those sounds every day are musical saints for allowing them to jam. The ‘garage rock’ they powered out was a little squalid at times however that’s the beauty of rock – it has no structure. Auerbach’s presence on stage was magnetic; he meant every note on his wide selection of classic guitars, drawing the crowd in with long silences through songs seducing us all with big finishes.
The mighty sound this pair of musicians create is unfathomable, something that the White Stripes were very close to achieving (however a certain Miss White let that duo down).
The gig ended with a disco ball the size of Lance Armstrong’s pre-op testicle that shimmered through the arena closing on a couple of old tracks. This is the beauty of not knowing their old stuff; you concentrate more on the tightness of the band and the old school riffs that even Mr Hendrix would be jealous of.