Dan Auerbach ::: Photos by Josh
“Auerbach is God.” Were I one of the lucky under-agers to witness Dan Auerbach’s performance at the Showbox on Tuesday, this is what I would be rabidly scrawling in my notebooks and on school bathroom stalls the following day. It’s not 1966 anymore, and while Clapton is certainly still around, these days few other blues guitarists can claim to capture the popular adoration from both modern rock and blues guitar players as the Black Keys guitarist can. And after Tuesday, “adoration” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel in my bones about one of my favorite modern musicians. Since we aren’t lucky enough to have a subway walls here in Seattle on which to declare the truth (bus tunnels don’t count), and since I’m twenty-eight and this is 2009, I think I’ll just limit my graffiti to the good ol’ World Wide Web and this here blog. I’ve done it already but I’m going to do again and take my statements even further. Let me be not the first and hopefully not be the last to say: Auerbach is God.
Lucky enough to spy Jordan of Magic Mirrors holding down front row when it wasn’t too crowded, I snuck in next to him and got a good spot for pictures during opening act Those Darlins and a good conversation between sets. A peppy mix of shit kickin’ punk, this trio maybe wasn’t respected enough by the heavily male audience who unfortunately talked over the entire set. Also opening was Hacienda, a band who’s latest record was produced by Auerbach, and who for this tour were picked as the band to serve as Auerbach’s backing band. I pretty much loved their rippin’ blues rock and was drooling over that vintage gold Les Paul that the guitarist was representing. Had I been drinking I think I would have really loved it and really rocked out. Instead I took mental notes on guitar technique and barely took any pictures anyway.
It was easy to see how they fit the mold as a multi-faceted backup band for Auerbach. To extend my earlier metaphor, they with the addition of percussionist Patrick Hallahan, who’s other job is principal on the skins for My Morning Jacket, make up Auerbach’s all-star blues band, a modern incarnation of the Bluesbreakers if you will, and as the night went on I would find them easily living up the potential of their frontman.
I had many questions going into Auerbach’s set. How many different guitars would he use? Only Two. Both hollow-body’s. Would they all be older than me? Both appeared to be. Really though the mouth-watering part of the night, was being center stage, directly in the path of Auerbach’s double amp setup, able to reach a true understanding of his fidelity. I know that sounds kinda dorky, but for me the blues played well really conveys truth in music, and the blues played live more so. And I can honestly attest that I don’t believe I’ve ever witnessed heavy blues-rock played live better than Dan Auerbach in his last two visits to Seattle in the span of a year, six months past owning Memorial Stadium at Bumbershoot with the Black Keys, and this time around on his own. Save a frail John Lee Hooker who could barely wield a guitar at the time I saw him, I don’t know if I’ve ever personally seen or experienced a blues-man with the same command of the medium of the Blues in general as Dan Auerbach. He’s developed an identifiable musical perspective as surely as B.B. King or Clapton has, both living legends whom I’ve yet to be lucky enough to see live.
Just about every song from Auerbach’s new record Keep It Hid (still streaming at myspace!) made an appearance, with my favorites being of course “Street Walkin’” and “I Want Some More,” headbangers that when delivered around midnight had the properties of still really getting the house going again instead of deteriorating into a lull. Without question a fair number of hardcore Black Keys fans were populating the crowd (with a douche or two pushing their way into the front for dickhead displays of fandom only to sense how unwelcome they were and leave three songs in), but nobody seemed disappointed with the change of scenery for their beloved guitarist, because really he wasn’t leaving his blues rock roots at all, he was simply expanding his repertoire to include sounds he personally loves, in psychedelica and soul. In truth for me, the quieter numbers “Whispered Words” and “When the Night Comes,” both of which feature primarily Auerbach’s voice prominently, were just as revelatory as his guitar skills.
Dan Auerbach will be in San Fransisco tonight (Friday), LA tomorrow night, and in Austin at the Parish for SXSW before heading off to Europe. If you have a chance to see Auerbach’s solo material live, I implore you not to miss that opportunity.