The Raconteurs, Orpheum, September 29, 2006
Jack White’s just one of those guys who likes the idea of being in a band. Because anyone who didn’t come away from the White Stripes a year ago at the Opera House, or last Friday night’s performance by his other band, the Raconteurs, at the Orpheum with the sense that White could easily be gigging under his own name, either has a Meg White fixation or a taste for the commercially unsuccessful pop confections of Brendan Benson. Jack’s the one the spotlight always seems to find. And, yet, you get the sense that he really could care less, that he’s just happy to be part of a gang up there. . .
Unlike the highly stylized Stripes, the Raconteurs were all about five scruffy guys in street duds ripping through bloozey Midwestern guitar rock with keyboard glue provided by Dean Fertita, and a hard-swinging rhythm section – drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence – courtesy of the Greenhornes. That sense of swing, and the spot-on harmonies Benson brings to the party, are two defining differences between this band and the Stripes. Indeed, take White’s star power out of the equation and there are probably dozens of bands just like the Raconteurs who are tight enough to indulge in the kind of loose jams that filled the Orpheum Sunday night. But when you’ve got that Jack White presence coupled with Benson’s knack for grafting hooks onto even the dirtiest garage rock, you’re no longer dealing with your average bar band.
The Raconteurs only real difficulty, after recording just one fairly short album (Broken Boy Soldiers on V2), was finding enough material for a full set. A long, drawn out, Zep-style blues-rock cover of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” popularized by both Sonny and Cher and Nanci Sinatra, got them get just past the 45 minute mark, “Steady As She Goes” encore and all. It also served as an amusing reminder of just how far White’s audience has to go before they can match their hero’s devotion to classic rock essentials like the false ending. Applause erupted half a dozen times during White’s “Bang bang” choruses, as he’d stop the band dead in their tracks, wait for silence, and then slam back into the song. Not that it seemed to bother him or Benson, as they traded solos, switched microphones, and acted like they’d been playing gigs like this together since they were teenagers.
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