The Black Keys - Hi Fi, 18/5/07

A drum, a guitar and a giant inflatable tyre - that is the essence of rock. Well, at least it is for The Black Keys.

Their set last Friday was amazing, a rampage through mainly older material (which was fine by me), with the time since they were first recorded allowing the duo to work over these songs into intense, smokey numbers. Sure, they didn't have the same sense of rawness that was first conveyed on albums like The Big Come Up and Thickfreakness, but they've saturated their sound in a positive way, this thickness only promoting their intensity.

Anachronism is certainly a 'flaw' often levelled at the Keys too, but tonight they sort of proved that they don't so much strive to recreate the blues past so much as honour it, whilst purposefully wrapping it up in their distinct sound, which itself mostly stems from the chemical exchanges between the two players. And if anyone questions whether its thievery or homage, you only need to listen to the answering message of the late Junior Kimbrough's widow to the pair, congratulating them for their work on the EP, Chulahoma: The Songs Of Junior Kimbrough.

But back to tonight - Patrick Carney belted the skins as if every bash was his last. Most drummers attempts at 'energy' always seem to dissipate somewhere between the intent and the execution, but his beats manage to mean something every go. Coupled with Dan Auerbach's laid-on heavy guitar and wail, they produce a sound that seems more like 5 than 2.

And tonight I'm reminded of the only other time I've seen the band, when they, unbelievably, played at the Narana Festival (set halfway between Geelong and Torquay, at the region's indigenous arts centre) as part of their first tour here in early 2006. They took to the stage after Bomba, and yet before Xavier Rudd - perched awkwardly between such dismal hippy-folk, they truly stole the show; regardless of the clearly un-into-it crowd and the insulting second-last slot, they went full steam ahead and played an amazing set. Being a Torquay local, this was one of my most surreal gig moments yet - watching a fucking brilliant international act play in what more or less amounted to a paddock, about ten minutes down the road from my house. It was a scene from the twilight zone.

And a brilliant one at that. And even though the mainly hippy crowd sorely weren't into the band, impatiently waiting around for Rudd, The Black Keys gave me something which they did again last Friday - true release. It doesn't happen often, and escapism is a debatable solution, but fuck sometimes that's the point of rock'n'roll. That feeling of utter enjoyment, to be in and of the moment, as the duo rip through their hollowed-out, broken down version of Busted, was magnificent. The possibility to forget, ecstatic erasure:

I'll set you free
I'll set you free
I'll set you free
I'll set you free

UPDATE: Head over to The Black Key's Myspace to download a four-track live EP free! Experience the magic by proxy!

The Black Keys - 10AM Automatic

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