Singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Dan Auerbach is no stranger to the ACL stage – his band The Black Keys have appeared twice on the show. This was his debut solo taping, performed with his Easy Eye Sound band and special guest Robert Finley, in support of his first solo album in eight years, the acclaimed Waiting on a Song. The record’s bright, countrified pop/rock contrasts nicely with the Keys’ grungy blues rock, and the show, which we streamed live around the world, followed suit.
Wielding an acoustic guitar, Auerbach and his band of legendary Nashville session players opened with the title track, a folk rocking welcome to a night of music. “Livin’ in Sin” followed, its country rock groove highlighted by the harmony guitars of Russ Pahl (who last appeared on ACL in 1993 with Great Plains) and Cage the Elephant’s Nick Bockrath. Auerbach switched to a Telecaster and Pahl to an electric sitar for “Malibu Man,” a soul-inflected tune with prominent harmonies from mandolinist Pat McLaughlin, another ACL vet, having visited in 2005 as a member of John Prine’s band. The frontman introduced members of the band, specifically “Memphis boys” Gene Chrisman (drums) and Bobby Wood (electric piano), both of whom have Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin on their extensive resumés. The group then romped through the darkly funny pop tune “Stand By My Girl” (“because she’ll kill me if I don’t”). Auerbach noted that many of the bandmembers had also played on songwriting god John Prine’s first album, before going into the sweet country rock of the unreleased “Somewhere Between Eau Claire and East Moline,” a song Auerbach co-wrote with Prine. Next up, the grooving “Pull Me Under Love” is another unreleased song that featured a Pahl/Auerbach duel on guitar. Auerbach introed the rest of the band before launching into the psychedelic swamp rock of “Cherry Bomb.”
Auerbach noted that he and his Easy Eye crew also make records for other people, bringing on one of those folks: Louisiana soul singer Robert Finley. Resplendent in his black leather cowboy hat and shades, the silver-haired, smoky-voiced Finley wasted no time going into the slinky “Medicine Woman.” “Let’s do one more with Robert,” said Auerbach, which cued the Southern soul of “Get It While You Can,” a classic in waiting. That was unfortunately all the time we had with Finley, but Auerbach made up for his absence with the lovely ballad “Never in My Wildest Dreams.” The band stayed with the easygoing vibe for “Tangled Love,” yet another unreleased song, and the album’s breezy “Show Me.” Auerbach ended the show with “Shine On Me,” the sprightly pop song that’s the first single from Waiting on a Song. The audience loved it, dancing along from the first bar. It was a sharp, memorable end to a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs in early 2018 as part of our Season 43 on your local PBS station.