The Black Keys with The Cuts
Wednesday, Sep. 15th, 2004
Gothic Theater, Denver
I had been waiting to see The Black Keys ever since they rolled through the Fox Theater for an afternoon photo shoot one day last July. At this point I was an office intern at the Fox, filing business receipts and wondering, “Who the hell are these guys?” After that day I managed to get my mitts on their second full-length album, Thickfreakness. And shit oh dear, did I like what I heard! Needless to say I jumped on the chance to go to this show.
The show started with The Cuts, a four-piece group with drums, keyboards, two guitars and a bass. These boys were probably the perfect group to be touring with the Keys. They reminded me of a Ramones/Strokes/Black Keys hybrid, and the guy on keyboards bore an uncanny resemblance to Neil Young. As for the rest of the group, apparently they got the memo that curly, shoulder-length ‘fros are in, man! The Cuts played a hearty set of rock songs tinged with a taste of classic Americana, while swigging beer in between songs. For some reason, I kept trying to put them in some sort of context, and what I kept coming up with was this: Beer, Chikken, and The Cuts!
The Black Keys, also known as Pat (drums) and Dan Auerbach (guitar), finally took the stage at about 10:30 or so. The theater filled up pretty quickly as the two shaggy-haired brothers sallied up to their microphones under the red and yellow lights of the undulating ceiling. “How ‘ya doin? Good to see ya!” I was sharing Dan’s sentiment until Murphy’s Law kicked in and I was stuck behind the two tallest fucks in the place! At least I could hear just fine, and fortunately the sound was phenomenal. Although there are only two of them, these two white boys from Akron, Ohio have managed to figure out how to create a wonderfully balanced and captivating sound using only drums and guitar. My friend Mark mentioned that if they added more instruments, they could take their sound a lot further, yet their sound is still amazingly full for just two people. We agreed it was perfect just the way it was.
Dan’s crunchy fuzz-wuzz Telecaster (yes, Mr. Rocky Mountain News, I knew that) [ed. note: there was a writer from the aforementioned newspaper who was “trying not to insult my intelligence” by alerting me to the Fender Telecaster-ness of Dan’s guitar] blended perfectly with Pat’s hard-hitting, solid drumbeats. Pat plays in true drummer form, with his hair in his face and his mouth wide open. The boys played kick-ass tracks from the first album, including “Hard Row,” “Set You Free,” and “Thickfreakness.” This was the first time I had heard any of the new songs from Rubber Factory, and the new stuff keeps in the tradition of the old, it’s still bluesy and playful with a sublime balance of sound that titillates my Libran sense of balance. “Stack Shot Billy” was particularly rawking.
The whole show was a body-rocker, and the boys played a four-song encore to boot. The only other instruments they busted out the entire time were a maraca and a tambourine, and they chugged water in the minutes between songs. We can’t blame the guys for trying to stay hydrated I guess. With the simplicity of only two instruments being played the entire time, you may know what to expect from the Black Keys, but what you expect is gonna be damn good!