By: David Schultz
As one half of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach provides the lowdown, reverb laden guitar riffs that have long been the stock in trade of the duo hailing from the industrial paradise known as Akron, Ohio. An apparent workaholic, Auerbach released his debut solo album, Keep It Hid, right on the heels of an overwhelmingly successful tour in support of The Black Keys’ well-regarded Attack & Release. Returning to New York City about two weeks after selling out a pair of shows with Keys-mate Patrick Carney at the cavernous Terminal 5, Auerbach attracted another full house to see him play his solo material at the Bowery Ballroom.
Backed by the Austin-based Hacienda and My Morning Jacket’s Patrick Hallahan, Auerbach played beneath a set of Christmas bulbs and additional stage lighting that were superfluous in the intimate environs of the Bowery Ballroom. Rather than add to the ambience, the lights provided an unnecessary distraction and often a blinding glare. No matter though, Auerbach romped through the majority of his recently released solo album Keep It Hid, his penchant for distortion and reverb making up for any lighting oddities.
Opening with the baleful, empathetic harmonies of “Trouble Weighs A Ton,” Auerbach brought a naked emotion and a touch of pathos not typically found in his Keys’ performance. For the most part, Auerbach’s solo set didn’t deviate too greatly from The Black Keys’ brand of heavy blues. However, with a backing band, Auerbach doesn’t have to do everything (save drumming) by himself. With a full band, the raggedly hirsute guitarist can slide into the traditional role of the blues frontman and work within the context of the surrounding band.
On “When The Night Comes” and “Goin’ Home,” Auerbach delves into the doleful acoustic style of the blues, generating earnest pleas from the depths of soul. It’s a fine contrast to the menacing stomp of songs like “The Prowl” and “I Want Some More” and reveals Auerbach as more than a one trick pony. When Auerbach follows wherever his reverb-heavy guitar takes him, good things usually happen. Even if he didn’t turn the reverb on ultra for “Heartbroken In Disrepair,” the superlative song resounded mightily.
If anything, Auerbach may have worn down the packed Ballroom before stepping on stage. Hacienda, who pulled double duty that night, finished their set of Austin-based indie-rock at about a quarter after ten. In making the crowd wait more than an hour, especially on a Tuesday night, Auerbach had the added onus of reviving a weary crowd, which for the most part he succeeded in doing. In this effort, he received a mighty assist from Hallahan who was a true pleasure to behold. Enjoying his role as percussionist, the linebacker sized drummer danced in rhythm with Auerbach’s heavy stomp, never falling out of step while he added tambourine flourishes, bongo embellishments or simply wailed away on a heavy suspended triangle. If My Morning Jacket’s drummer was having this much fun, you can only imagine how much the rest of us were entertained.