Live Review: The Black Keys @ Colston Hall, Bristol

Wed 6 July

Total Guitar headed (slightly) West from our Bath bastille to review the Black Keys live in Bristol.

TG is a big fan of Bristol's Colston Hall. We're always trawling out there to do interviews and the impact of the massive bejillion-pound entrance area is never lessened. Equally, we never fail to feel slightly deflated when we walk into the main room and get hit by that 'knackered town hall' vibe.

While, we appreciate that doesn't make it sound too appealing, there's something about seeing gigs in that setting, that harks back to the school assembly shows, or local battle of the bands nights, that got out of hand. You know, the kind where you see how many rude words you can fit in your 'Killing In The Name Of' cover, before the music teacher shut it down.

Anyway, having been hand-picked last year as the first signings to the Kings Of Leon's very own label, Serpents and Snakes, support band The Features are a little past the school assembly gig stage.

They share their benefactor's Southern tinge, but are perhaps a little more straight forwardly 'American indie' than K.O.L. When they play live, they all line up at the front of the stage, side-by-side (including the drummer), giving each player an equal share of the lime-light. Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pelham cut a striking figure, holding it down rhythmically and inserting occasional fuzzed up bends and screeches.

The Black Keys, in turn, enjoyed a rapturous reception entering to an instrumental hiphop-vibe track, which we suspect is a lost cut from the Blakroc album. The show was split into two parts – the first drawing from earlier albums 'Thickfreakness', 'Rubber Factory' and 'Attack And Release' and the second, in which they were joined by two "shady characters" on keys and bass, drawing songs from new album 'Brothers'.

Guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach was on his best form in the first half of the show, blazing through his various Harmony/Silvertone vintage guitars and fuzz pedal collection. Great tone, riffs and improvisation were all brilliantly combined, with Auerbach playing with a passion and intensity channelled from his beloved blues players (Junior Kimborough, Fred McDowell etc).

The second half of the set was let down slightly by sound (the guitars weren't loud enough!) and the duo seemed much less comfortable as part of a four-piece, than on their usual sparse arrangements. These are just nit-picky points though and really the entire set was hugely entertaining.

Auerbach is, without doubt, an authentic guitar hero for the 21st century and probably deserves more credit than he usually gets. If you haven't already, make sure you catch The Black Keys live.