Sunday, October 01, 2006

Metropolis Montreal QC

Thunder cracks! at 4 am Saturday. Happy b'day Cece. The cat scurries out of the room in fear and I spend the next hour wondering how long the rain will delay our trip to Montreal. Circumstances alter cases and we're on the road at 6 am instead of our scheduled 7 am departure time. No matter as the storm was moving south to north and we were driving west to east. Arrived in Montreal at noon to meet a fellow fan from Toronto, Dave Caley, in the parking lot opposite our hotel. Most of us are staying at the Hotel Villa De France, a bit of a risk, not like staying at the Holiday Inn. It's directly adjacent to the venue, a definite plus. The hotel used to have clientele who rented rooms by the hour but has recently undergone a change of ownership and some refurbishing. A small 20 room hotel, you have to be careful when you book if you like a private bathroom. Very European. No phone in your room. Not a not in 'extras'. The venue, and hotel, are located in the 'red light' district, a few blocks stretching beyond the Place Des Arts, a mere 15 minute walk from the heart of the entertainment district. It's not that threatening at all. Actually, it's colorful. Rooms are reasonably priced. Think I'll stay here next time I'm in the city.

This is just a quick hit into the city to catch a show from one of the premiere performing artists alive today, Jack White. Not enough time for any real sight-seeing but we are smack dab in the middle of some interesting Canadian literature birthing grounds. Our hotel is only a couple blocks from Moredecai Richler's St Urbain. Leonard Cohen's Westmount, where our host lives, is only about 15 minutes from where we are located. A world away in some respects but if you had a few hours you could take a decent tour.

Our friend Ryan is coming in from Ottawa with a posse of his friends, most special among them, his much-better half, Teri. They surprise us by getting here before their scheduled ETA, if only by a bit. Aaron and Janine are along and they still have 6 more friends stashed at another hotel. We crack the jack and green early and get in our hello's before we take off for our respective meets.

Cece and I have made our way to Brutopia on Crescent Street to hook up with a long time cyber-friend, David Hanley. We're through our first round when David shows up in time to pick up the second. The menu is not as substantial as I'd hoped so we make our way out onto St Catherines to land at a cafe with some meaty open faced sandwiches. With that detail out of the way we're back to jack 'n green at the hotel. The kids had been out shopping and Ryan drops by for 'hello's' and a round. Sooner than you'd think it was time to head into the venue. The rather lengthy lineup that formed outside the door to our hotel has been inside for a good half hour already but there's still plenty of room in front of the soundboard.

David and Cece take up residence at a table just behind the soundboard and I get ready to tape Dr Dog. I know nothing about this band, just their reviews at the Little Room messageboard where most Stripes fans think they are boring. Ryan mentioned earlier they'd opend for Clap Your Hands And Say Heee Hawww! (or some such band). That didn't lift them up any in my estimation. I thought Dr Dog was one black guy with a beat box. Turns out it's a handful of scruffy lookin' white kids playing a handful of nondescript tunes. I'll give them a more detailed listen when I transfer the recording but until then I'll wait for them to team up with Skinny Puppy and Snoop Dog for the "Three Dog Night Tour".

Another round in between sets and with little delay and less fanfare the Raconteurs are onstage.

I'm still not getting Intimate Secretary. It's fine as a 'wall of sound' warmup but it doesn't have much definition onstage. Memorable only for the audience response when Jack utters his first syllables. Cacaphony describes it well. For me the show starts with the 'call and respond' on Level, which we get in the second slot.

I've spent the better part of the afternoon describing the neat trick the Raconteurs are doing this tour. They open with the musical 'outro' to Hands and generally close the set with the full version. If you loop the tape it's a concert without a beginning or an end. So tonight we get Hands in the third slot, which is good because it's out of the way, blowing that 'loop' theory out of the water.

There's a running joke tonight that is focussed on what city is the capital of Asia. It's likely this started during some late night drinking session but it's carried over to the stage. It's not making much sense to us because we weren't in on the "you had to be there" part. Brendan guesses "Dallas" during the band intro. Jack laughs. We scratch our heads. We're informed that each of the Raconteurs has a mother and Jack closes the band introductions with: "And I'll be Jack White tonight if you want me to."

Into Brendan's homage to Pink Floyd (if you ask my wife that's any song he sings), Yellow Sun. During the most important verse, or at least my favorite verse, Brendan uses the stage to continue the Asian schtick: "We wrote our names down on the sidewalk/ Jack, is the capital of it...Bangkok?" Good rhyme with 'sidewalk' for an impromptu interjection. Of course Jack's got nothing to rhyme his "what we meant" to, and he doesn't try to match Brendan's improv, he just plays it straight.

And that, my friends, is the 'suck-ass' portion of the show because things start to get interesting right about now.

We're into the face-smashing 5 on the 5. Got no idea where this song comes from, only have about a quarter of the lyrics down as yet. It's a substantial change in tempo that catapults Jack into the middle of the show at his 'screamo' best. A brief respite as Brendan performs It Ain't Easy, a great cover popular before most of this audience was born.

There's no 'keyboard' Jack tonight. He's impinging on Brendan's space periodically but making no move to push Fertiti of the ivories. Store Bought Bones opens with a modified introduction, not the 'spirit in the sky'version, just some funky guitar improvisations before they do the Bane rendition and explode into the main song. Rather lenghty version tonight. Jack's found some breathing room on most of the songs, they've all come a long way in the 6 months since they took this baby on the road. Especially the blues-based rockers, not so much the wussy pop stuff.

The understated lead-in to Bang Bang does little to gain the attention of the primarily francophone crowd standing near me. Normally this would be bothersome but there is no more beautiful sound than a girl talking French, so it was tolerable. This song is clocking in at near 10 minutes now and it's become the passion queen of the show. It starts, it stops, it starts, it stops...the breaks are getting longer, the transitions are getting even louder and that doesn't even include losing Jack to some extended solo's.

There's no pacing involved in the rocket-blast that is Broken Boy Soldiers. A runaway train into the encore break. Have I mentioned Patrick Keeler yet? He's a dynamo. Fast becoming my favorite rock drummer currently on the road.

Seems we're at the encore early but time flies when you're having fun. A little more of an extended break, maybe two, three minutes as the band probably takes a saline IV or at least chugs a pitcher of Perrier.

Headin' for the Texas Border picks up where BBS left off...a hundred miles an hour and out of control. Just like it's supposed to be. This song suits the persona of the Raconteurs so well. Always runnin' from the law. Snakes on a stage. Beaten, nay, broken boy soldiers. Even "Bang Bang" fits this motif as it's a story about unrequited play fighting. Always with the games and the fightin'. Boys (and men) and boys, again. Even "A House is Not A Motel" is filled with travellin' and singin' and blood.

Fan fodder next, Steady As She Goes will be fresh in the minds of the crowd as they mill about outside. That is if they didn't slip into a coma during Yellow Sun.

Show closes with the epic Blue Veins, another 10 minute jack-stravaganza. Along with Big 3 Killed My Baby and Ball and Biscuit this is the third song that will appear on Jack's career restrospective at the Smithsonian. It's that good.

We spill out onto St Catharines for a post-show meet-and-greet while the crowd moves away from our hotel. I pass on hitting any bars with the youngun's and we close the night with the show playing on the computer speakers and 'wind down' chat in the hotel room.

Breakfast plans are scuttled when real rain threatens to slow down the ride home. Cece and I are on the highway by 10 am as the kids rise from their slumber. We'll see them down the road sometime, I'm sure.


Anonymous said...

can i get a copy of the dr. dog show?

email me at

Ray said...

Great post, Marcel. Did you happen to record the Rac's set? I need to get prepped up for the three shows I'm seeing them open, and I don't have anything besides the CD. Thanks.

Timbo said...

Great review Marcel!

I'm drooling at the mouth waiting to see the Racs next week here in England!!

Completely agree about Blue Veins joining Ball & Biscuit as a career highlight for Jack. The Big 3? I'll have to take another listen...