Auerbach takes on a new edge, alone
By JOSHUA LIEBERSON
STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent
As a veteran of four Black Keys shows, the most recent only a month ago, I was intrigued with the idea of Dan Auerbach gearing up with a full band for a month-long tour of small venues. After getting the feeling recently that I could call out the setlist in advance of the Black Keys show, something different was in order. His new album was the first clue: instead of the all-out bludgeoning assault of the Black Keys, Auerbach released a solo effort, Keep it Hid, of slow cooking blues rock with more nuance and detail than any Black Keys album would even attempt to muster up.
Nonetheless, the question remained of what Auerbach would sound like if he were ever to be backed by a full band. The results, as you will soon learn, were spectacular.
The night began with me outside the Bowery Ballroom in the freezing cold, waiting for my friend and fellow concertgoer. After 20 minutes, I stopped into a nearby bodega and picked up some hot chocolate to be sure I didn't turn into a block of ice. Soon thereafter, he arrives, we head in, and grab a beer. (Note: Bowery has some good beer choices, a rarity at concerts, though I've noted this before at Black Keys shows. So, maybe this is one of those strange-yet-fabulous demands that Auerbach makes before playing a gig. Let's hope so), Opening is Those Darlins, who have interesting hard rockabilly sound to them, and they rollicked through a half-hour set. Not quite the discovery that the Heartless Bastards were last month at Terminal 5, but Auerbach has good taste when it comes to his opening bands.
Next up was Hacienda, who would also serve as Dan Auerbach's backing band. The Austin-based band had a very straight-foward rock feel to them, the kind of dirty rock ‘n' roll that would suit Auerbach well later on. In this context, it was impossible to size them up properly, as I spent more effort thinking of how they would mesh later on, even if I was enjoying the show. Fear not: I bought their CD at the merch booth to give them their proper due.
Onto the stage comes Hacienda once again, featuring Patrick Hallahan from My Morning Jacket on percussion, and of course, Dan Auerbach on lead guitar and vocals. As with the album, Auerbach opened with the quiet genius opener, "Trouble Weighs a Ton.” Next up, to really get the show on the road, was "I Want Some More.”..and immediately I noticed how on target his backing band was, and how amazing he sounded with the full complement of musicians. As the show went on, Auerbach proceeded to really nail every song from his new album, each taking on a tremendous life live. My friend and I both wondered aloud if, as great as the Black Keys are, the two-piece handcuffed him. He really showed no restraint throughout the show, with jams and solos here and there to accent the groundwork he had laid in the studio. Songs like "The Prowl,” "Mean Monsoon,” "Heartbroken, In Disrepair,” and "Keep It Hid" flourished in Auerbach's freedom to breathe and expand. And perhaps even more impressively, the slower acoustic songs felt so genuine and impassioned, you simply could not take your eyes off the center of the stage. In addition to playing his entire album, Auerbach also threw in four covers, none of which I recognized, but all of which were extended takes seemingly from the mid-sixties.
We both felt that every song was an absolute highlight from the night, the only low light being a guy and a girl in the audience that would simply not stop talking, loudly, about how much they love live music. Perhaps this is the complaining that I never quite understood with people in the back of the audience chatting it up, but if you love live music so much, why can't you simply watch the show and talk later? Or even respect those around you and go downstairs and chat? My decision on this was to walk away from them and go to a spot where there was no chatter. Apparently, someone who was standing behind me was not so kind and ask them to quiet down in her best down-home New York manner.
At the end of the night, however, not even the gabbing soon-to-be-lovers could sour what was a damn fine set from a damn fine blues rocker. While I was already a huge fan of the Black Keys and the Dan Auerbach album, I left with profoundly more respect and admiration for Mr. Auerbach's talent and craft. If you love the blues, I leave you with two pieces of advise: 1) run out now and grab Keep It Hid for your turntable, and 2) go see him with Hacienda, even if you have to travel. It may just be Dan Auerbach at his greatest.
E-mail Joshua Lieberson at email@example.com
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