THE DIRTBOMBS with the Greenhornes and the Leather Uppers at the Horseshoe, 370 Queen West. Tickets: $10-$12. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The energy level at the Horseshoe before the Greenhornes/Dirtbombs doubleheader bordered on electric Friday night. Fans around the bar debated the probability of a surprise appearance by Jack and Meg White, who are known to be friends of fellow Detroit rockers the Dirtbombs. And with the Greenhornes' Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler providing the rhythm on Loretta Lynn's recent Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose disc, who could blame them? I dismissed the rumours as wishful thinking and worked my way in front of the stage as Ohio's Greenhornes started their set. Singer Craig Fox's slight build and shy delivery were a striking contrast to his ferocious guitar playing, which comes off like he's pissed that the Ramones weren't a blues band.
For all Fox's talent, the best bands always have great drummers, and Keeler's abilities behind the kit wouldn't leave any Zep fan wanting. The obvious star of the trio, his beats propelled the crowd into an awestruck frenzy.
No showy, self-indulgent solos, just straight-up blues-rock is what the Greenhornes are about. They show that the limitations of playing blues-based music are minimal when you've got this great a rhythm section.
Choosing such a good a band to open for you is a risky move, but one the Dirtbombs can handle with ease. What fans dig about 'em isn't just the songs, but the sheer love of playing that the Dirtbombs exude both live and on disc. It's a refreshing change from bands with a 'tude who feel entitled to your adoration, whether they're facing you or not.
How many so-called garage bands can muster an album of soul covers that sound like Otis Redding backed by the Stooges? How many bands can captivate a crowd to the point where nobody cares about Meg White hanging out beside the stage? When Jack White jumped onstage to pound the drums next to Dirtbomb cousin Ben Blackwell, it was awesome, but it wasn't even the highlight of the show - how many other bands could pull that off?
As the house lights went up, the nicotine-starved scurried outside for a fix, while Jack White sat in a back booth catching up with his buddies from both bands. The anticipatory electricity that had filled the club three hours earlier still lingered, and it was obvious to all the sweaty stragglers that something special had definitely gone down.