You wait for one band of scuffy monkeys to sell out the Astoria after only one limited single (and tickets a king’s ransom on ebay and outside) — then two come along at once. Only The Raconteurs are not from Sheffield but from the motor city. And they’re not that scruffy. Oh, and one of them is actually a critically and commercially feted pop star.
This is the first (relatively low-key) London appearance by this Detroit supergroup-of-sorts, featuring Jack White, solo artist Brendan Benson and two thirds of The Greenhornes (Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence). Their visit follows only one very limited 7” release and proceeds their debut album Broken Boy Soldiers. All but two of the (original) tracks played were new to the audience, but each was treated like a Robbie Williams tribute act at a chav wedding reception. The two songs already released and streamed on their website were given an even more fervered reception. I guess that’s what happens when someone who normally plays stadia, arenas and headlines festivals plays such modest surroundings.
four friends getting together to indulge their love of English Invasion R&B, US garage and 70’s and 80’s AM radio rock
This was almost exactly an hour of fiery retro-guitar pop recalling any time between 1963 and 1985 at various points. Songs were split between JW’s distinctive wail, BB’s warmer tones and the duelling or co-operative combinations of the two. “Steady, As She Goes” was a Bowie-esque early seventies stomp. The multi-tracked vocals of the original replaced with 4 part harmonies. The weird swamp-garage of “Store Bought Bones” grew teeth in it’s live incarnation. Factoring in JW’s squalling, manic guitar solo it became a full-blooded ROCK! song (with a great shouty, key-change chorus).
The Raconteurs also included not one, not four, but three covers, including a thunderous rendition of Love’s “This House Is Not A Motel” and a faithful version of “It Ain’t Easy” (well you make it look like it is, Jack) from Ziggy Stardust. Another highlight was the Zeppelin-blues of “Blue Veins”, sung by Jack, and the closest in spirit to his normal output.
This isn’t just about “Jack White from the White Stripes”, although that’s what it could seem in the promo to their album. This is about four friends getting together to indulge their love of English Invasion R&B, US garage and 70’s and 80’s AM radio rock. All the parties involved seem to have input into the project, but it’s generally more of a departure from White’s day job than Benson’s. The former has traded in the the 3-obsessed strictures of his and Meg’s stripped-back blues (red/white/black, guitar/drums/vox) for something more fun and probably less intense. Brendan Benson’s solo work already recalls the likes of the Beatles and Nirvana but it must be nice to share responsibility and raise his profile alongside his pal. How long this side project lasts is anyone’s guess, but this performance augers well for how good the album will be.