Friday, November 18, 2005

The Black Keys | Cabaret La Tulipe | Nov. 17th

In early 1990, I spent a night eating venison sausage, drinking Iron City beer and watching Buster Douglas knock-out Mike Tyson. It was a highpoint in masculinity for me. However, watching The Black Keys and Nathaniel Mayer shake the shit out of Cabaret La Tulipe last night in Montreal nearly matched that high. I didn't have any tough meats to gnaw on or rough beers to choke down but I saw a kick-ass rock'n'roll show.

The show got going on time around 9pm. The only noteworthy part of the drive up was the large number of homes in Canada that are already decked out in Christmas lights. I guess with their Thanksgiving in October there isn't anything holding back their unbridled love for the Baby Santa Claus. I got into La Tulipe around 9:10pm and Mayer was already on stage. I wasn't sure what to expect from the guy so I was pleasantly surprised when he proceeded to spend the next hour schooling all the indie kids in 60's Northern Soul showmanship. The guy turned a set filled with generally average tunes into one of the most memorable performances I've seen in a long time.

The guy has to be in his mid-to-late 60's and moves fairly stiffly but he's still packed with moves, charisma, charm and a sense of how to work a crowd that is nearly absent in today's rock world. As I said, the music was good fun stuff but wouldn't be anything spectatular without Mayer strutting around the front of the stage in the coolest suit this side of Elvis.

Before, during and after songs he was working the crowd. Pointing to girls and telling them to "shake what their mother gave 'em", pointing to guy's and asking them if "they are a satisfied fool", choreographing the audience to yell "Hell, Yeah", borrowing hats from folks and finally inviting some ladies up on stage for a little flirting and AARP bump-and-grinding. I just stood there bopping to the soul-filled bass line with a huge smile on my face the whole time. However, it wasn't just his interaction with the crowd that was so good. He also did an expert job of orchestrating the band through high-energy dances and mid-song low-beat story-telling sessions; each time bringing the band up a little higher till the place was ready to explode. He finished the night with a version of "I Want Love and Affection (Not a House of Corrections)" that must have lasted over twenty minutes as he wandered off stage and back on repeatedly to further intensified flourishes from the band. The guy was great and a perfect opening band for the night.

I had read on Misanthrope about the long break between Mayer and The Black Keys so I my expectations were properly calibrated. However, it was still amazing to watch four guys take 45 minutes to set up a drum kit, two Marshal amps and check two guitars. It was like watching an old WPA New Deal work project. When it came time to bring out the water bottles (you can see two of them on top of Auerbach's amp in the picture), the guy would bring out one bottle, put it down, go back for another bottle, put it down, go back again, etc. I wouldn't have noticed it if Misanthrope hadn't mentioned it but it was still hilarious to watch.

Once the gear was ready, The Black Keys hit the stage and tore the place up. I only have Rubber Factory from them so I was only familiar with about a third of the songs but every song grabbed your attention from the first bars. The crowd was packed with big Black Keys fans because they knew every song from those first bars and the room would immediately start to bounce with each song. That heavy bluesy rock guitar andprimative pounding beat just shoots right through you and gets you moving. When they launched into "10 A.M. Automatic" and "Till I Get My Way" the place went nuts. Eventually, a few punks went up top and started surfing the crowd around the room. I can't remember the last show when I saw so much crowd surfing. By the way, the other thing I was surprised by was how much Black Keys fans love their pot. Damn, it was everywhere. I thought I was at Reggaefest or something.

Patrick Carney's drumset is moved up to the edge of the stage for their shows which gives you a good look at his drumming. It's fun to watch the guy because he doesn't conserve an ounce of energy. Every part of his body is moving at all times. He's the anti-Charlie Watts and I love him for it. After about half the set, he would sit there hunched over like he had just ran a marathon but once Auerbach would start the next song, Carney would spring to life pounding those skins and tins into submission. His ferocity and the lack of subtlty in any of their songs made the excessive pre-show roadie-tinkering with their equipment that much more bizarre.

They did two encores and the crowd cried for a third but it was almost midnight so the show was over. A great night of ass-busting rock'n'roll.

The drive home kind of sucked though. It had snowed on the way up but it wasn't sticking to the road. During the drive back, the road was blanketed in white as you can kind of make out in this picture through my windshield. Twice, I found myself driving on the other side of the yellow line when there weren't any car tracks to follow. I got home around 2:30 to find my daughter had just woken up. So, I told my wife I'd take care of her. However, I probably wouldn't have said that if I had known that I wouldn't get to go back to sleep until 4:30am. It was a brutal end to an otherwise fun night of music. However, I'm confident that in years to come, I will have forgotten about being so tired and will only remember Mayer strutting his stuff and The Black Keys shredding the blues.

UPDATE: I guess I wasn't overreacting when I was complaining about the roads during the drive home. Today's Burlington Free Press' front page story is about how State Senator Ed Flanagan and his overturned car were discovered at the bottom of a 200 foot embankment on Friday afternoon. The police believe that Flanagan went off I-89 around the time I was driving back from the concert and laid there for about twelve hours before someone spotted him. He went off the nothbound side while I was heading southbound but, in general, the road conditions sucked for such a tiny little storm. Flanagan's family has asked the hospital to not release his condition which doesn't sound very promising. Hopefully, he'll recover from this.


Myriam said...

So you see in the picture with the girls on stage... far left.. the girl in the turquoise shirt? teehee that's me! Hey, it sounded like fun, why the hell not? Plus, the Black Keys were SICK! I was in awe of how awesome they are live...
Good concert

Flatlander said...

Nice dancing, Myriam. It looked like you and your friend were having a good time up there. It all added to a great show.