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The Black Key's - Kentish Town Forum 04/10/06
Reviewed by Lewis Hodgkinson

Roughly two years ago, my band and I experienced a life changing gig in Shepherd's Bush. The Black Key's were playing at The Empire and although we'd heard their albums and we'd heard all the hype, none of us could have anticipated what we were to witness that night.

"There’s no way it'll sound like it does on the album"
"I reckon they'll have a bass player and a keyboard player to fill it out"

Enter stage left, two white, middle class nerds from Akron Ohio. Patrick Carney & Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys.

Patrick doesn't immediately strike you as a drummer; he looks like he should work in PC world, but in the warehouse because his face scares the customers. Dan has something about him, but where would he find the freight train vocal and that guitar sound we'd all been consumed by?

From the minute they struck the first note it was that 'hair on the back of the neck' feeling, the shiver, the rumble and the explosion of emotion when a band really blows a venue apart. It was unbelievable and the best show I think any of us had ever seen. A drummer and a guitarist, on their own, playing the fullest, badest, dirtiest hell-sent racket you ever heard in your life.

Our ideas about instruments, line-ups, musical structure and everything else bands often seem to get hung up about changed forever.

So, here we are in Kentish Town two years on and it's fair to say there is a definite sense of indifference amongst tonight's attendees. Shepherd's Bush was a long time ago, a lot of other 'new favourite bands' have been and gone and the tracks we've heard from the Black Key's new album don't strike the same feeling of elation as the first time we heard 'Thickfreakness'.

The Forum is a great venue in my opinion. It's a big old glorious shit-hole of a theatre stained with the memory of gigs gone by and the perfect place to see a band like this. The power of the Black Key's music seems to be heightened by the fact that they are so often dwarfed by their surroundings. Two solitary figures on stage, a drum kit and an amp, all add to the absurdity of the sound they produce.

We get underway and as Blood Meridian begin their set, I remember the support last time being exceptionally poor, both in terms of musicianship and personality. Two years on and not much has improved. I start to wonder if my previous Black Key's experience had been so positive because I'd drunk my own body weight in Red Stripe trying to nullify the pain of watching the support acts. Bland Canadian pap is how a mate of mine sum's it up but I think that's a touch harsh. To me it just seems strange that despite a growing wealth of young Blues Talent in this country the promoter has once again picked a mediocre rock outfit to support one of the most groundbreaking blues bands of the last twenty years.

After a lengthy wait and to a huge roar from a restless crowd, the Black Keys finally take to the stage and burst straight into 'Thickfreakness'. Instantly, we are all connected with the sound we came here to experience. Dan's guitar sounds as scorching, powerful and full as ever and the near tribal rhythm from Patrick's kit result in their truly unique sound.

The turning point comes when the Black Key's try out new material. It's difficult to become a 'loyal' follower of a band who hardly ever make UK appearances and who are relatively obscure in terms of British radio / media coverage. As a result I would wager the majority of the audience are here purely on the basis of 'Rubber Factory' and are unlikely to yet have a copy of the new album.

The new songs are undoubtedly heavier, with more of an early Zeppelin / Cream type 'rock' vibe about them and although I personally loved them and the general feeling in the hall was positive I sensed (from some of my mates included) that the audience were left feeling they had been cheated by the lack of older classics.

I think the set was brilliant. The band now seems more capable of delivering a live set with the dynamism and variety achieved on their albums. Powerful and aggressive at some points, tender and ambient at others, this is the set of a band who have honed their craft playing the music they know and love.

Anyone who hasn't heard this band must give them a try. The huge variety of ages and attitudes in the venue is testament to the fact that their appeal is so incredibly far reaching. In my opinion any newcomer should start by buying 'Thickfreakness' and go from there. But, if you do get the chance you have to see them live. It's definitely what they do best and a sound like theirs can only be fully appreciated when it's being blasted into your soul directly from the stage.