Black Keys “Tighten Up” Their Grip In Pittsburgh

Real old electric blues had a specific tonality and sound. Robert Johnson, Muddy and even Buddy Guy didn’t have any Bonamassa, or Hendrix “Red House” tones, like any of the big “blues” guys today. Missing was the “Dumble” sound or any of what I would call contemp-blues tones in their guitars. Doyle Bramhall III maybe one of the few guys that goes back and forth between contemp-blues and old electric-blues along with Clapton.

Ole school electric-blues is thin in it’s presentation. Auerbach steals a page out of SRV’s book when we discuss tone…obviously not style or even choice in guitar for that matter. Auerbach is the king of “dumble” sounding blues. Influencing new hitters like Gary Clark Jr. I always refer to his really cool rig rundown being a player myself. Gotta love the squishy tweed deluxe Japanese fuzz-wah sounds.

The guitar in those bands (often with piano, mouth harp, or other instruments in the mix) just totally stood out. Dan Auerbach is a traditionalist and fails to completely conform to modern blues sounds. Many people were confused with the muffled sound of his guitar.  People who know The Black Keys realize this is the palette that Auerbach paints from and we dig it!

Nobody seems to go for that sound anymore. Yet a lot of covers of the originals do it with a more mid-rangy, chirpy, OD sound. In fact, a lot of the old electric blues wasn’t even close to being in OD territory.  This territory was fantastic when Carney and Auerbach went two piece during the early middle part of the show doing down home versions of Thickfreakness, Girl On My Mind and Your Touch.

I can see where in today’s world, we have changed our tastes, and it could wear thin over a whole set, but for those of us “chasing the tone”, it might be a cool idea, for authentic blues sound, to play a couple of songs on the bridge pickup, and let the bass and drums (and maybe piano) cover the low and mid ranges. This would be my only complaint after watching The Black Keys rip it up last night at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh PA.

Tempo discussion was also thrown around the crowd. Patrick Carney always charges out of the gates like a bull at Pampalona.  He leads and very rarely follows. So when Auerbach starts most of the songs you have an unpredictable dichotomy between chase and follow.  Now don’t be misled by my observations which tend to be highly critical when analyzing live music. I truly loved this show and everything about it.  The magic is never lost in their set which is listed below (thx to “Setlist“).

Little Black Submarines was a highlight for a lot of people starting off with great acoustic sound similar to the record and eventually morphing into it’s muscle flexing power rock ending.  The rest of the set lived up to it’s billing and The Black Keys deserve the success they’ve garnered in the past 3 years. They’ve always seemed to carry that blue collar swagger with them and they truly appreciate their fan base.

The rule being that if you really dig at least 3 releases from a band you may be hooked. I loved the Magic Potion CD the first time I heard it and everything they put out after it.  I guess we must concede the fact that Ohio is the home of one of the best bands from the rust belt.  Maybe there’s another Black Keys in the making, in some basement in Pittsburgh. We can only hope.  But, I have a feeling that those guys from Akron will be around for a long time.

All photos ©2013 AWeldingphoto and Pittsburgh Music Magazine

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