Walking into Apogee Studios in Santa Monica is like going to your friend’s house with the “cool parents,” the ones that let you watch whatever TV show you want and can tell you stories about musicians you’ve never heard of, but instinctually know are cool as hell. So even if you’ve never been, or never heard of the venue in your life, you know some rad people have made music there. For this reason, it was the perfect setting for Dan Auerbach to play songs from his latest solo effort, Waiting on a Song.
Auerbach is less like a cool parent, and more like your super cool uncle — a super cool uncle who is also one of the most important musicians and producers of our time, to paraphrase KCRW DJ Jason Bentley. And if you had any doubts about Auerbach’s talent before seeing him play to an intimate crowd of 60 people on a beautiful evening in Santa Monica, you’ll never need to question his legendary status again.
After a short but warm intro by Mr. Bentley, Auerbach and fellow cool relative Pat McLaughlin took the stage and went right into their first song, and the title track from Auerbach’s most recent project, “Waiting On A Song.” The setup of two guitarists and no percussionists was fitting given the acoustic nature of the album. As Auerbach played rhythm and sang the lyrics, McLaughlin jumped in and out, helping out with backup vocals and some impressive guitar flurries and solos.
The next three songs, “King of a One Horse Town,” “Never In My Wildest Dreams” and “Livin’ In Sin,” continued in the same fashion. The crowd of gray hair, flannels and Warby Parkers swayed (including camera and soundboard operators) back and forth to the melody, as Auerbach’s soft yet powerful voice filled the room. In between each song, Auerbach’s mischievous side poked its head out, making quick jokes or funny faces as he sang, getting the crowd laughing every time.
After the first four tracks, Bentley came back on stage to interview the Black Keys frontman and discuss his recent solo project. Topics ranged from why Auerbach chose to record in Nashville, to the people he wrote and recorded alongside. There were a lot of fun anecdotes for fans, including the fact that Auerbach built a studio in Nashville and is starting up a label (Easy Eye Sound) and the “American” sound they were shooting to capture. The best part, however, were not the answers Auerbach gave to Bentley, but the way in which he did it. He is incredibly quick witted, giving snarky responses and joking with Bentley as if they were (and they are) old pals. One can tell Auerbach is most comfortable on stage, and his cool demeanor drew the crowd in with no signs of letting go.
Post-discussion, Auerbach and McLaughlin once again took the stage to play a few more songs, this time pulling from both of his solo efforts. They led with “Trouble Waits For You,” off of Keep It Hid, and then skipped back and forth between his first and second solo album with “Stand By My Girl,” “Trouble Weighs A Ton” and “Shine On Me,” respectively. It was apparent that Auerbach had won the crowd over by this point. Laughter willingly greeted every wisecrack, and when asked, the entire crowd joined in on the chorus of the closing song, and single “Shine On Me.”
Without much convincing, the audience got Auerbach back after he bid us all adieu for an encore of “Goin’ Home.” It was a fitting finale to the evening, Auerbach sitting alone on stage with just a guitar, singing about returning to his roots: “Forget about the things you want, Be thankful for what all you got. So long, I’m goin,’ goin’ home…”
During the interview with Jason, Auerbach mentioned that as a kid in Ohio, he learned to create music by playing along with his family members and relatives. His latest album employs that same formula, giving listeners an idea of his heritage with warm American songs that somehow sound even better live. If this is where Dan Auerbach came from, we’re happy he’s home.
Waiting On A Song
King of a One Horse Town
Never In My Wildest Dreams
Livin’ In Sin
Trouble Waits For You
Stand By My Girl
Trouble Weighs A Ton
Shine On Me