The Raconteurs’ Earth Shaking Show at Third Man

By Daniel Podolsky

Photo by Daniel Podolsky

As The Raconteurs tore into “Salute Your Solution,” the second track the group played Wednesday night (9/14) during their show at Jack White’s Third Man Records, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the crowd not fully enthralled by the earth-shaking beats and crashing, dance-party rhythms. The sold-out show saw the venue at capacity (a number the NFD reduced to 190). Half of these $40 tickets were sold at Third Man’s storefront on Aug. 30 to overwhelming demand. The line to purchase them started to form 17 hours before they went on sale.

Opening the show was early-American roots-country revivalists Pokey LaFarge and The South City Three. Taking the stage eight minutes past 8 p.m., LaFarge won over the crowd with a sound that wouldn’t be out of place on the catalog of Chess Records. His influences include such early influences as Blind Boy Fuller, Bob Wills, and Jimmie Rodgers (a reworked cover of Rodgers’ “In The Jailhouse Now” closed out the set). Yet as talented as the songwriting may be, it would be nothing without the backing band: The South City Three. On the upright bass is Joey Marciano, plucking out sounds that sway between gypsy jazz and ragtime blues. On second guitar is Adam Hoskins, playing a Hawaiian acoustic with a Spanish-influenced Country twang. The third piece is utility player Ryan Koenig, whose vibrato-laced harmonica solos had the crowd roaring just three minutes into the set. After the fourth song of the night, “Pack It Up”—released as the B-side to their Third Man 7” single—Koenig switched to his washboard covered in saucer plates of various sizes, playing with a metal glove and unbelievable skill. The opening set lasted only 30 minutes, but the impression it left lasted at least 35.

At around 9:15, Third Man Second-in-Command Ben Swank came onstage to introduce The Raconteurs, for their first show since September 2008. White, along with co-frontman Brendan Benson, bassist Little Jack Lawrence, drummer Patrick Keeler, and touring utility man Dean Fertita promptly powered up their instruments and proceeded to destroy eardrums with “Consoler of the Lonely,” the title track off their second album. That album was announced only 10 days in advance of its planned released. With no announcements before this show directly addressing the existence of new material, the audience was unsure what to expect. And although the intensity of the first couple songs were definitely present—thanks to an incredibly loud volume—there were several missed cues and a few cases of reworked instrumentation. Speaking to The Detroit News, Benson admitted, “We were having a hard time remembering how to play the songs. At one point, we had to look up tabs on the Internet.” Despite the rust, there was no question that this band knows how to put on a show.

The third track played was “Hands,” off of the first album Broken Boy Soldiers. Halfway through this number came the only cover of the night—a portion of The Who’s “I Can See For Miles,” a song whose feel, especially the drums, plays well to the sound of The Raconteurs—they then returned to “Hands” before strumming into “Old Enough,” a number originally recorded with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe. This one was the most notably different from the studio version, as there was no violin, and therefore the band had to compensate by reworking the bridge and using instruments whose timbre just didn’t match the set. The last track of the first half was “Top Yourself,” after which the band had to stop for a moment so engineer Vance Powell could change the reels of analog tape. Next the band was joined by a three-piece horn section introduced as The Blowhards for a Benson-penned ballad, “Many Shades of Black.” The horns stayed for “The Switch and the Spur.” The last song before the band exited for the first time was “Broken Boy Soldier,” the title track of their 2006 album. The band then walked offstage to overdriven feedback, a signature Jack White move at any show.

The crowd wanted its money’s worth however, and kept cheering for a solid five minutes before the band returned to finish the night, starting with a dialogue from White: “A lot of the songs that Brendan and I wrote together were in in-between periods,” he explained, in what was looking like a rare moment of insight. Instead, he was only referring to the weather. “It wasn’t rainy, wasn’t too sunny. It was in between.” After a very well played version of their 2006 hit, “Steady, As She Goes,” and a suspenseful version of a live staple, “Blue Veins,” it was time to go home. As the crowd wandered out of the famed Blue Room through the alley in the back of Third Man’s HQ, it was pouring rain.

Pokey Lafarge set list:
1 Walk Your Way Outta This Town
2 St Louis Crow
3 Pack It Up
4 Head to Toe
5 Hard Times Come
6 La La Blues
7 In That Jailhouse Now (Duane Rogers)

The Raconteurs set list:
1 Consoler of the Lonely
2 Salute Your Solution
3 Hands
4 Interlude – I Can See For Miles (The Who)
5 Old Enough
6 Top Yourself
7 Many Shades of Black
8 The Switch and the Spur
9 Broken Boy Soldier
Encore
10 Steady, As She Goes
11 Blue Veins

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