Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

The Black Keys. Live. That is all.

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“I was a movin’ man in my younger days, But I’ve grown out of my ramblin’ ways.

I left that road so far behind, now I know, oh babe, I got mine”

-The Black Keys, I Got Mine

About 4 years ago my husband and I had tickets to go see Kings of Leon with some friends. I was looking forward to the show, thinking it would be a fun summertime outdoor concert. We settled into our seats with our overpriced draft beer and started chatting with our friends as we waited for the show to start. I was talking to my friend when the opening band started playing. I rudely stopped mid-sentence and turned towards the stage. I watched, mouth open, as two guys ripped through a gristly blues rock number. A drummer and a guitar player worked about 15 square feet of stage, surrounded by equipment covered in tarps for the headlining band. As they moved into the next song I started nudging my husband, trying to get his attention. He was engrossed in conversation with his friend and ignoring my pokes and elbows. Finally, by about the third song I punched him in the shoulder. He needed to hear this. Two guys, bare bones, no effects, no stage show, barely room to move, and a sound so rich and full and loud… I was blown away.

I had heard of The Black Keys.  I had read about them in Rolling Stone [read me], but I hadn’t really taken the time to listen to their music. I have never been more grateful to go to a show I was apathetic about. They finished their all too short set and I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin. I was so excited about what I’d just heard, I was ready to leave before Kings of Leon even came on stage. That night when we got home I downloaded their entire catalogue.

To truly appreciate the genius that is Dan and Pat, you must see them live. We have seen them six times since then. One time was at a two day music festival with dozens of bands. I watched the people around us as the band took the stage. I watched them chatting during the first song or two of the set. I watched their faces as they began to realize what they were witnessing. I watched them nudge their friends, their heads starting to bob to the rhythm. By the closing song, even the people in line for the Porta Jons were bouncing up and down and rocking.

They close every show with “I Got Mine.” This is the best live performance I’ve ever seen. I can’t fully describe what happens to the room/arena/festival when they play this song, but two guys are up on a stage controlling a crowd. No fluff, no antics, no production. Just bad ass music. The way it should be. Watch this performance and get a taste for yourself…


9 Responses

  1. I have recently been feeling the urge to find some new music to get into. I am terrible about getting in a rut, and I’m getting tired of the same songs on the radio. Plus, I want to expose my kids to a wider array of music than Katie Perry and Lady GaGa. I’m totally diggin’ this. I think I might head over to iTunes and download some Black Keys…along with some Kinks. I heard a Kinks song today and thought to myself, “why don’t I own a Kinks album?” Thanks for giving me the motivation!

    1. I was feeling that exact way when we saw them the first time. I was apathetic about music in general and felt like I hadn’t heard anything in a long time that excited me. After this concert I got excited about new music again (I had been immersed in classic rock until then for a few years, ignoring all new music) I feel so lucky that I grew up listening to good music (courtesy of my Stepfather) and I try to expose my kids to good music. My son loves The Black Keys and went to one of the outdoor concerts with us last summer. My daughter’s not a huge fan, I think we burned her out and her taste is more electronic music. It’s so funny that you mention The Kinks! I love them! “Lola” played a critical role in my and my husband’s courtship and we try to have it played whenever we are some place that has a DJ or band taking requests…. Just last week at a bowling alley I surprised him and had a DJ play it. Plus, it’s the kind of song that everyone loves and sings along to. I was tempted to have it be our First Dance song at our wedding, but since it’s about falling for a transvestite, I thought it might confuse people…. I hope you got to download some Black Keys and liked their other music! Their older stuff is their best, in my opinion!

      1. I downloaded the El Camino album last night and listened to it while I was working today! It’s great…I have a feeling I’ll be adding more Black Keys to my playlist. Which is your favorite album?

        Lola is such a great song!! That’s the one I heard on the radio the other day that made me think I needed to get me some Kinks on my ipod 🙂

    2. Kelly- I don’t have a favorite Black Keys album… I really have favorite songs on every single album they’ve put out! I’m going to list some of the songs I love. You might be sorry you asked, I’ll try to restrain myself! Everlasting Light, Girl Is On My Mind, Hard Row, I Got Mine (obviously), Just Got to Be, Next Girl, She’s Long Gone, Sinister Kid, So He Won’t Break, Stack Shot Billy, Ten Cent Pistol, These Days, Thickfreakness, Tighten Up, Too Afraid to Love You, Unknown Brother, Your Touch… and Heartbroken In Disrepair by Dan Auerbach (singer of Black Keys) is one of my all time favorite songs!

      1. Awesome!! And I noticed quite a few Black Keys on your V-day mixed tapes 🙂 Thanks for the suggestions. Music is like restaurants…it’s always nice to get a recommendation. And I certainly understand the passion behind sharing your favorite music. If you ever get me started on The Monkees, I would talk your ear off. Sadly, no one really every gets me started 🙂

    1. Thanks! Glad you liked it! I have a lot of friends who are only familiar with their newer slicker stuff and I always try to get them to go online and watch this performance so they can see what their music is really like.

  2. I live in greater Akron, Ohio, Gretchen. The guy whose desk is closest to me at work lives next door to Pat’s father, who is a writer at the daily newspaper.

    Despite moving here in 2005, I didn’t discover The Black Keys for a year or so. I still haven’t seen them live, because they stopped playing the local venues due to their growing popularity by the time I heard “I Got Mine” on a San Diego rock station.

    I had never heard to guys make so much beautiful noise before.

    They’re magic. And I still have no idea how they do it.

    But in the ultimate irony department, my favorite album by them–by far–is Chulahoma, where they cover Junior Kimbrough for six magical songs over a half hour.

    It’s perfect. I’m going to listen to it right… now.

    I love that you enjoy music so much. 🙂

  3. Chulahoma is brilliant and masterful… I love them best when they are doing the straight up blues. Their last two albums I liked and enjoyed, but I like their older grittier stuff much much more. There was a song on their Brothers album, “These Days” that made me want to write again. When I first heard it I literally teared up and felt the overwhelming desire to write. (This after a long period of not writing anything). They are supposed to be releasing a new album any day now and I’m hoping it’s more like their older stuff. You MUST see them live! Even if you have to make a road trip! If I worked next to the neighbor of Pat’s dad, I would possibly be guilty of stalking by proxy. (Not really, I call it being a groupie, not a stalker 🙂

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