Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: The Black Keys at Amsterdam's Paradiso

The hottest day of the year so far, a Dutch win against Slovakia in the World Cup and five hours of celebratory drinking bred a thirsty, sweaty fever for The Black Keys' heavy blues, that thickfreakness if you will, the Akron Ohio duo are known for.
And sure enough, Dan and Patrick appease the masses opening with just that, 'Thickfreakness'. The brick-house riffing and hard drumming of the early single stirs the sold out old church and the crowd heaves. Hot.

Patrick drives down on the simple kit, his face twitching and coursing through a range of expressions; slightly rock, slightly mental. Dan's rolling guitar picking, while technical, carries more flow and when he jams out, bent over the guitar he seems to have this headbang-on-slo-mo style where his hair defies gravity and his back curls hard.

It's sexy voodoo blues, writhing with the burdened spirit of Robert Johnson, tales of wrong doings and love gone foul. From Attack Release, 'Strange Times' creeps with a lurk, sprawling the Keys' music beyond their original sound to something more multidimensional, aided initially on record by producer Danger Mouse.

Rolling down the line, as if the sound they punch out isn't enough, the two are accompanied on stage by a bass player and keyboardist. The bass rumbles past Auerbach's guitar - which wouldn't normally need support - and throughout the overflowing hall. Likewise the organ grinds out a psychedelic path of its own, adding to that wall of voodoo. If it wasn't before, it's scorching now.

New tunes play equal favourites to old, with a succession from Brothers. Opener, 'Everlasting Night' chugs along with Auerbach's falsetto before the personal redemption and kiss off of 'Next Girl' and the glam stomp of the Dr Who-esque 'Howling For You' as we all sing 'dada-da-da-da, dada-da-da-da'.

With more axes then an angry dwarf convention, Dan chops and changes with every song, all immaculate with new tones and a whole lotta richness, continuing through the soul of Brothers' 'I'm Not The One' and Magic Potion's 'Your Touch' and finishing the set with raw, creeping roll of 'I Got Mine' from Attack Release.

An uproarious crowd laid it on thick for an encore, from the stage front to the third tier rungs. 'So She Won't Break' burns to a slow heat. The Black Keys are an amazing live band who harness unbridled rock, while keeping it wild - no more evident than on 'Set You Free', their closer for the night, where wrangling guitar licks and whipping drum rolls are cut through by Dan's soulful voice and heavy groove.

We spill out of the old church and onto the street to an unfamiliar yet comforting warm night in Holland that feels more like a steamy evening in the deep south after midnight mass. Thank heavens for the Black Keys.

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