Jack's back with the Racon...who? The Cannery Ballroom, Nashville (April 14)
The Raconteurs’ last headline show here was on November 19, 2006. At the end of the ‘Broken Boy Soldiers’ world tour, it was actually the first time their new hometown had a chance to inspect them at close quarters. Since then, though, they’ve become more a part of the social and musical fabric of the city, collaborating with local musicians, attending shows and, in the case of Brendan Benson and Little Jack, dating some Nashville gals. Thus, this first live gig in support of their second album is less a showcase for the sceptical, more a chance for a ‘local’ band to warm up in front of friends before hitting the road.
From the opening seconds of ‘Consoler Of The Lonely’, this isn’t a warm-up so much as a white-hot branding iron of intent jabbed into the hide of the world. The crowd – many of whom have been camped outside the Cannery Ballroom for 12 hours in unseasonably cold weather – roar their approval of Jack’s skeleton-themed Manuel suit (the tailor behind glam-country classics worn by Gram Parsons, no less). Indeed, for all those democratic intentions, for all Brendan’s prodding of the audience (“You’re kinda quiet for a Nashville crowd!”), for all that new songs like ‘Attention’ show off one of the best rhythm sections on the planet, the White Stripe is still unquestionably the primary focus here. Switching between piano (‘You Don’t Understand Me’), acoustic (‘Top Yourself’) and, of course, his furious, unpredictable, physical electric guitar playing (‘Blue Veins’, ‘Steady, As She Goes’, pretty much all of ’em), you can’t take your eyes off him, even during the likes of Brendan-led encore opener ‘Many Shades Of Black’. He’s clearly relishing this more conventional and now well-oiled set-up, too – his accommodating colleagues allowing him to go to places the sparseness of the Stripes would never allow.
Or to put it more simply, making it easier for him to show off. So what with Jack hinting last December that he and Meg may never play another show (not to mention the grin on his face for much of tonight), it’s beginning to look like the only way most folk will get to witness his firecracker solos (and even more explosive showmanship) in future is with his ‘other’ band. But as closer ‘Broken Boy Soldiers’ leaves The Raconteurs basking in a swelling wave of feedback as they take a bow together, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
Jason Moon Wilkins