Sunday, September 18, 2011
(This is the first picture I've posted that I actually took)
Imagine this. Your favorite band in the world has been on indefinite hiatus for the past two years. They announce a one-off festival show somewhere in Michigan, which turns into a couple more, including starting the whole thing off at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, which just happens to be the last place you saw them in '08. It was just like finding out that your favorite local band is back together, playing the same old haunt they used to play back then. Tickets sold out in minutes, and I was lucky enough to have gotten one.
Finally, finally, the night came and as hard as I tried not to, I still arrived pretty early. There were two opening bands which I didn't expect. The first was a vaudeville style old timey bluegrass outfit whose name I never caught. I spent the time during their set walking around. The opening act I was expecting were Nashville's own garage psych-punk duo JEFF The Brotherhood. Their set was good, full of bulldozing guitars and pounding drums, and songs that roared despite only being played by two dudes. They had a real thing going, and it was good to see them enjoy their recent success, but agian, I was still a ball of excited energy and spent most of their time pacing the back of the balcony.
After a switch over period that included music that was actually interesting, the Third Man suits vacated the stage, the lights went down, and the crowd went ape. This was it, the moment I had been waiting for since September '08. The Raconteurs took the stage and blasted into a noise bomb, which led to the beginning of "Consolers Of The Lonely", the title track from their second album. From then on, it was hit after hit as "Hands" led into my personal favorite, "Level". You could tell the boys were super stoked to be back, albeit a little rusty as Brendan Benson slipped up on the beginning of "Old Enough", but he recovered quickly with a huge smile. Nashville's favorite adopted son Jack White held the super charged crowd in his hands while he sang (in his own Jack White way) "Top Yourself", even letting us complete the big pay-off line, "DO IT TO YOU".
As the show set in, it was clear that the rhythm section of Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence was my favorite part of this band. Watching Keeler drum is like watching someone push a huge snowball from a wheelchair. He was just relentless, making me wonder how just one guy could make all that noise in songs like "Many Shades Of Black", and "Broken Boy Soldier", which has one of the sickest drum parts in rock history. And although he is small in stature, "Little" Jack's bass lines rival giants the likes of Johns Entwhistle and Paul Jones. These two combine to be the engine that drives the guitar train consisting of Jack White and Brendan Benson, each with their own unique style. It's not hard to see that these friends have been tight for years, long before the Raconteurs began, and even while on hiatus, playing with each other in various groups and projects.
They ended the set with "Blue Veins", the perfect bluesy number for "Big" Jack to freak out on guitar and really leave us wanting a strong encore. They did not disappoint. They hit us with "Salute Your Solution" and "Steady As She Goes" before ending with their epic saga "Carolina Drama", recounting the tale of Billy versus the evil boyfriend. Jack even played the last line, completely without amplification, having everyone in the crowd join in on "Go and ask the milk man." It gave me chills.
This show was as close as I've seen to a perfect 10. Granted, as I said before, it was my favorite band in the world and there were a few slip up moments, but the energy, venue, and band all combined for a concert that was just out of this world. And I say this having just seen Grace Potter just a handful of nights before. The energy and crowd-to-band relationship was right up there with The Flaming Lips, without, of course, the balloons and confetti. I felt privileged to be there and be able to one day tell the kids that I saw the Raconteurs at the Ryman, twice. With the mystery and randomness of all things Jack White, we have no way of knowing if it will be another open-ended aperture, or if we will see a new full record and tour. Obviously, I'm holdin' out for the latter, but history shows us that the best ones always leave us wanting more.