by S. Pulse
The lights dimmed at Austin’s Moody theater as a resounding rhythm pulsated through the darkness surrounding an empty stage. Seconds passed and tensions built before the faintly lit Raconteurs walked toward the stage in a single-file line. Like a boxer heading for the ring, The Raconteurs took the stage energetic and ready to throw down. The first punch came from the opening song, a guitar-laden “Bored and Razed” which rattled the soul of the theater and all of its lucky occupants with deep pounding chords. “Don’t Bother Me” and “Only Child” followed. Both songs came from the album “Help Us Stranger”, the first release from The Raconteurs in over a decade.
Jack White moved from his guitar to a grand piano to perform “You Don’t Understand Me” singing “And there’s always another point of view, better way to do the things we do.” In the case of The Raconteurs, the other point of view involved collaboration. Jack White and Brendan Benson traded off on vocals, guitar riffs, and songwriting contributions. Bassist “Little Jack” Lawrence, drummer Patrick Keeler, and touring member keyboardist / back-up guitarist Dean Fertita (QOTSA) also shared their master musicianship. Their communal spirit awed in “Shine The Light on Me”, one of the songs that motivated The Raconteur’s to return to the studio. The song started with White still seated at the piano while the band added tight, harmony-clad vocals reminiscent of Queen.
Vocals moved seamlessly between White and Benson, as the latter took the lead in “Now That You’re Gone”. White’s bluesy guitar licks punctuated the vocals and displayed his mind-boggling guitar acumen, a skillset that took center stage throughout the night. “Sunday Driver” followed with all the flavor of old school rock-n-roll and even included a cowbell. That song was followed by the track with the same name as the album “Help Me Stranger”. Speaking of help, the bands gear, including White’s half a dozen guitars, were managed by a team that curiously sported uniforms reminiscent of the lonely Maytag repairman who, like their dependable muse, kept the pace of the show flowing. Next up, “Thoughts and Prayers” and then “Only Child”, a song written by Benson which included the swagger-deflating lyric “Only child, the prodigal son, has come back home again to get his laundry done.”
The 10-song rapid fire of songs paused briefly as White took a moment to greet the audience and introduce the band. He sported a black Steve Jobs-like sweater, a seemingly appropriate look for a genius. Seemingly ageless, White’s porcelain pale skin and unruly ebony locks looked unchanged. An equally distinctive Benson, whose too-short pants, tennis shoes and curly 90’s hair seemed very “Saved By The Bell” (in a good way!). Together, these two unique individuals, complimented each other and produced a blended rock-n-roll dynamo. This was on full display in their next number “Somedays”, a “Freebird”-evoking pull to the heart-strings that questioned our purpose with the lyric “Somedays I don’t feel like trying” and ended with a repetitive and reaffirming response, “I’m here right now, I’m not dead yet”.
Crowd favorite “Old Enough” ignited the crowd followed by another much-loved song “Top Yourself” that included a clutching harmonica solo by Benson. A drum-driven cover of Donavan tune “Hey Gyp” came next and adequately amped up the crowd for the granddaddy of all Raconteur’s songs: “Steady As She Goes”. Inviting the crowd to respond with the chorus, a sing along resulted. Gratified, many in the crowd, viewed “Steady” as the final song, but The Raconteur’s chose to end the evening with newer material as they closed out the show with the storytelling “Carolina Drama”.
The evening reinforced the fact that The Raconteurs continue to deliver fresh, forward-moving music rooted in the pure and tasty rock-n-roll we’ve been craving. The meaty goodness of driving guitars, blues riffs, harmonic singing, and big sound delivered satisfying nourishment at a time when true rock seems watered down and scarce.
Our future playlists will be peppered with all things Raconteurs while we continue to quench our rock-n-roll thirst. Looking forward to their festival appearances – – and may we recommend sunscreen!
Bored and Razed
Don’t Bother Me
You Don’t Understand Me
Shine The Light On Me
Now That You’re Gone
Help Me Stranger
Thoughts and Prayers
Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)
Steady As She Goes