Friday, June 06, 2008

The Raconteurs
Teddy Thompson
Toronto ON

Jack White passed through town last night, with his backing band The Raconteurs. Now I know there's a lot of you out there screaming "The Raconteurs are NOT Jack White's backing band!" Right. Hold on to that dream. This is not to disparage Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler or Little Jack on the bass but when you're onstage with Jack White, you're just taking up room. Benson's got a great voice and his guitar work is more impressive than you might think. Keeler is the best live drummer I've seen in the past 5 years. Little Jack does a yeoman's job on bass. Then there's Jack.

Caught a break when the lone Raconteurs show in my general vicinity fell right in between three Leonard Cohen shows. Didn't have to dump any tickets.

Caught another break when the show was switched from the semi-arena, Ricoh Coliseum, to the more cozy confines of the KOOL HAUS. Scheduling conflicts (read: low ticket sales) was given as the reason.

Didn't catch a break when The Black Lips found out it ain't as easy to get into Canada as DHS would have you think. I was really looking forward to the eclectic offerings of that band. Instead we get The Sadies, who bring a Juno nomination and a nod for the #1 Roots album of 2007 from Rolling Stone magazine.

For my tastes The Raconteurs are not the best vehicle for Jack's talents but, hey, I'd rather be in a Buic than walkin'. If there's any consolation it's that the 'cover' songs this year are blues-based (Keep It Clean, Baby Please Don't Go) rather than the 'pop' covers of 2006 (Bang, Bang and It Ain't Easy). I'm not expecting many surprises as the second album release doesn't leave a lot of room for non-Raconteur songs.

Normally I set up in front of the right speaker banks when visiting the KOOL HAUS. I find most fans don't make it past the crowd at the entrance and they tend to settle in on the half of the venue closest to the bar. Even though that's also Jack's side I've decided to set up on the left speaker banks so I can make a quick exit at shows end. Tonight's crowd is a little pushy. No one seems to be concerned with anyone else's concert experience anymore...a little sad. I find a spot behind a 6' 7" behemoth which isn't as bad as it sounds. I could see the stage clearly over his shoulder and no one crowded in behind me. Now the 'stage bargers' they were another story. Line after line of drunk, beer-totin' mullet-heads pushing their way to the front like they were at a Kim Mitchell concert.

The Sadies were impressive. If you like surf-guitar you'll love this band. The songs WITH lyrics, well they weren't as impressive.

The show is a little late as the Racs don't take the stage until close to 9:30 pm. They have this annoying little dance they let their roadies do before the show. For a good 20 minutes after they've laid down the cue sheet for evening (usually the '5 minute' signal) they move on and off the stage, plucking or poking at one instrument or another but in a very choreographed manner. One enters stage left as another is leaving stage right. You think the stage is clear then someone moves behind the drum kit to check the bass drum. As he leaves another roadie emerges from the shadows picks up guitar and leaves with it. Eyes stage left and someone is laying down a guitar on a rack. It goes on and on and serves no purpose other than to keep you fixed on the stage. Pre-show music was killer...a half hour of Howlin' Wolf blues.

Brendan has a number of decent songs this year...tops among them: Switch and the Spur and Many Shades of Black; one a great spaghetti-western pastiche, the other a barn-burner live.

Jack begins to take over the show with his piano stint during You Don't Understand Me followed by his lead on the bitter break-up song, Top Yourself.

The band has come up with interesting rearrangements of most of the songs from the first record, especially Steady As She Goes and Level. Lots of impromptu guitar dueling and toying with the rhythm of the songs. Intimate Secretary and Broken Boy Soldiers get reworked as well.

The show reaches it's pinnacle the with first set closing extravaganza of Charlie Jordan's Keep It Clean followed by the Hank Williams Ramblin' Man dub of Blue Veins.
20 mintues of Jack madness that has to be seen to be believed.

Brendan opens the encore with the lovely Many Shades of Black. The next two songs don't keep up the momentum as Salute Your Solution and Attention come out as a wall-of-sound...all sounds indistinct from each other.

Show closes with a masterful, epic tune, Carolina Drama. Though Jack's been having trouble with his voice tonight he pours all he has left into the finale. A job well done.

Here are some sound samples from the show:

The Raconteurs

Keep It Clean

Ramblin Man/Blue Veins

Carolina Drama

The Sadies

The 400

I saw about 50 shows last year, at least half of them had an opening act. Of all those the only one that was added to my "must see" list was Teddy Thompson. He opened for Nick Lowe and put in a pretty impressive set. Unfortunately his date in Toronto coincided with The Raconteurs show. Fortunately he was playing The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern which has a late time slot for headlining acts: 11 pm on weeknights, later on the weekends. So I thought I'd give it a go.
Unfortunately I got there about 20 minutes into the set. If my taxi driver had run a couple of red lights I might have got the complete Tonight Will Be Fine, a cover of a Leonard Cohen song...but NO, he had to drive safe. I did get about 45 minutes, including an acoustic Everybody's Movin' to open the encore and a reprise of the new single, In My Arms.

Teddy has a full band with him and this show was their tour opener/rehearsal. Sounded fine from 10 feet away. Will have to do a real concert with this guy in the near future.

Sound Sample

In My Arms

1 comment:

ryan said...

excellent review, marcel.. glad you are getting a nice little run of shows.