Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Black Keys (4/2 - At The Warfield, SF)

Last night I went to see The Black Keys play at The Warfield in San Francisco. I haven't been to a concert in awhile, so it was nice to get out. I had very high hopes for this concert because the band released its new album -- Attack and Release -- on April 1.

Apart from some technical difficulties, the show was kind of a letdown. It wasn't bad, just pretty average. And when you have high expectations, it feels even worse. I think my main gripe was that they played for just about an hour, which is kind of stingy, especially if you've just released a new album! More importantly, their timing in general was off. Or, something was off and it didn't quite sound right. This was especially true when Pat Carney's uncle, who is featured on the album, came on stage to play.

The one caveat here is that the new album is actually very good.

This brings me to a broader topic, one that began nagging at me mid-way through the show. Does it seem odd that compared to live music I prefer listening to music that is engineered and packaged in some studio and then reproduced on a lifeless machine for my personal enjoyment? Is that sacrilege? Am I a terrible person for preferring the lifeless reproduction to the real deal?

Whenever I go to a show, I look out at the crowd rocking out. And I have a very good hunch that they would rock out to just about anything just as long as it was loud. Frankly, it doesn't even have to resemble a song. And this seems so odd to me because I'm sure most of these people would be quite discerning if they were listening to the song in the car or at home. They would be candid whether a song sucked or not. But for some reason, the collective music IQ takes a sharp nosedive when you are at a live show.

It's not about the music. It has more to do with being there, at a show -- it feels, collectively, more alive to know you are at a place, a gathering, where it is. And you know what, I'm done with that. It is fool's gold and I'm not interested.

I think this observation of the crowd, and its collective dumbness, poisons my experience of live music in general. I have been to only a handful of shows where the performer's musical skill and talent were on display and transformed an otherwise great recorded track into a completely new emotional experience. But that is more the exception than the rule.



Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your Black Keys show comments. The entire event was rather flat. In their defense, I have to say that the last show at the Fillmore was an absolutely remarkable revelation for how live music can transcend the recordings. Not this time, however.

They need to a) get some rest, b) practice the new songs on their own time and not ours, and c) stop with the guest appearances.

Anonymous said...

It depends.

Back in the 80s, I was a huge New Order fan. But live, they suck. Totally lifeless. Just standing there.

But take Modest Mouse. They are unbelievably uneven in live performances, often so drunk they suck. But I saw them in LA a few years ago and they were so much fun. The music was energetic, but definitely not as good as the studio versions. But Isaac kept messing around with this fake mustache that kept falling off. Priceless.

Nicholas said...

As a rule, I read live reviews or track down the word on the street before going to a live show. Some bands just aren't made for improvisation, Beach House is a perfect band and therefore a perfect example. I love their first album. That's exactly why I wouldn't want to see them live. It would ruin the ideal that I have experienced.

Generally I prefer bands that are a) known for improvisation...(Sonic Youth, for example, even if you dislike Sonic Youth you should see them in concert...two weeks ago I went to see the Boredoms with my bro...fucking amazing show. seven drummers in a circle. and the lead singer was playing a seven guitars, which were stacked on top of one another, like drums)...or b) a new artist trying to become well known.


Nick Garklavs

P.S. 90 % of the time, I prefer recorded music to live.