The Raconteurs, with Birds of Avalon
Tuesday, April 29
The Uptown Theater
By JASON HARPER
Photos by SCOTT SPYCHALSKI
Had Kevin Arnold and Paul Pfieffer from The Wonder Years discovered weed and the Yardbirds and Black Sabbath just before graduating, gotten cool and formed a band, they would've been the Raconteurs.
Yes! We have a slideshow! Go Go Gadget Slideshow!
But in actuality, the Raconteurs is a supergroup consisting of Detroit powerpopists Brendan Benson, Jack White of the White Stripes and backing vests the Greenhornes. (Oh yeah, and Paul Pfeiffer is really Marilyn Manson.)
Touring behind their second album, Consolers of the Lonely, the Racs came to the Uptown last night, playing with openers Birds of Avalon from Raleigh, North Carolina.
The show gave Songs for the Deaf a new interpretation; just off stage right during both performances, two women dressed in black took turns in a spotlight, attempting to sign the lyrics for the hearing-impaired crowd. I felt bad for them. Not only was the sound near deafening, each band's vocals were mostly drowned in guitar fuzz and squall. The signers put forth a noble effort, nonetheless, giving what they could and resisting the urge to play air guitar the entire time (unlike your dad up in the balcony). My attempts to jot down lyrics in hope of composing a set list were futile. At one point, it sounded like Jack White sang, "Kevin went to the shower!" Maybe there's something to my Wonder Years theory after all.
Both bands were jammy and '70s-y, very '70s-y. While Birds of Avalon is more progressive and psychedelic and British-influenced (they rambled into a cover of the Who's totally obscure Armenia City in the Sky), the Raconteurs are more in the vein of good ol' classic FM rock like Grand Funk and BTO, with a major blues influence carried over from Jack White's time on the set of Cold Mountain. Seriously, though, I'm generally a fan of White's take on the blues -- he wails, shimmies, chirps and hits the super-duper-octave pedal on his guitar and turns Jimmy Page into a nuthatch.
On Raconteurs records, there's a lot more space in the sound, less rocking out and more focus on the song -- some of which, be it noted, are covers (Terry Reid, Nancy Sinatra). Live, the group's a hipster-blues cavalcade of 70s rock mojo, one big long "Song for Jeffrey," if you will. I swear to you, man, there's 20 years, a couple of crack rocks, one flute and one 20-sided die between Ian Anderson and Jack White:
So, while the Racs aren't doing anything truly original, there aren't many bands out they're attempting this kind of mojo. But as to the question of whether Benson and White are the next Jagger and Richards: no. But maybe if they study hard, they could be the next Supergrass.
As to the question of whether young men such as myself have a crush on Jack White, well, I don't know. He did look pretty dashing when, toward the end of the band's hour-and-a-half set, he jumped off the front of the stage and took into his pale, muscular arms a girl who had apparently fainted and handed her off to a security man, who carried her past the sign-language lady and backstage. That got me pretty wet.
And Jack White is a bona fide rock star. There aren't many of those out there these days who are worth a shit. Ah hell, I'd bang him.
But have you seen Winnie Cooper lately? Damn!