The Black Keys: Kings of the Underground

The Black Keys
October 30, 2008
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

Black Keys: Kings of the Underground

First, major props to The Black Keys for charging only $10 a ticket. That’s practically free in today’s rock and roll marketplace. Few bands have the balls, the audacity, the ultra-hipness to do that. In fact, I’ve paid more in service charges and fees to the universally despised Ticket-Bastard, I mean, Ticket-Master (who will be sharing the seventh circle of hell with insurance companies and oil corporations). No, Greed is not Good.

But before I digress too much...back to the band. The Black Keys are the Kings of Underground rock. Unlike the Kings of Leon, they have never compromised the integrity of their sound for popularity and remain dedicated to loud, raunchy, fuzzy blues that would make Jimi Hendrix proud. (Check out my review of the Black Keys Warfield show in April 2008 for an exegesis on their authenticity.) Unfortunately, I do get the very real sense that they are so uncompromising in their vision that this could result in their undoing as the songs tend to blend together. It is difficult to avoid the nagging sense that the band may have reached their zenith with the 2004 album Rubber Factory, which is destined to be a rock classic, and are now starting to retread their hard bluesy grunge into a worn formula.

But a great formula it is. Sometimes it sounds like guitarist Pat Auerbach is channeling Hendrix sans tie-dye mysticism. The amount of sound produced by Auerbach on his guitar is unparalleled. And the manic drum playing of Patrick Carney is reminiscent of pioneer drummers Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) or Ginger Baker (of Cream). It’s no wonder that they claim so many fans amongst rock luminaries, including Robert Plant as well as members of ZZ Top, Metallica, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys.

At the Fillmore, the band stuck largely to their biggest hits, like 10 am Automatic, Stack Shot Billy and Girl is on my Mind. It seemed the band, like the audience, took some time to get into gear on a dreary, rainy Thursday night. But by the time they reached their encore, no one had left, and the crowd was louder than ever. Still, for hard rock enthusiasts, the Black Keys can’t be beat.