Nobody understands the distractions of the modern era like Jack White, a man whose own self-proclaimed agenda against the modern luxuries of today has all but consumed his music career, which is exactly why my cell phone (along with everyone else’s at Township Auditorium this past Tuesday) was locked inside a magnetized bag for the duration of the Raconteurs show.
I tried reasoning with the security out front; “Oh, but I’m a writer, I need my phone to take notes, for my job.”
Nope. Put it in the bag. Lock it up. Enjoy the damn show.
Cell phone complications aside, being free from modern distraction is probably the best way to see a band like the Raconteurs, who are on their first US tour since their 10-year hiatus. Alongside a stage setup awash in green, copper and blinding white, the band was led by noughties-era-rock’s own prodigal son, Jack White, with Brendan Benson on vocals and guitar, Jack Lawrence on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums. The group also brought along Dean Fertita, from Queens of the Stone Age, on keyboards, who was yet another valuable Easter egg into the world of Jack White. Fertita is also a member of White’s Dead Weather project.
After bursting into “Bored and Razed,” the group’s set list was comprised of a mix of tracks from their latest release, Help Me Stranger, weaving through the rest of the band’s discography, including 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely and Broken Boy Soldiers. Standouts like “Broken Boy Soldier” and “Salute Your Solution” displayed Jack White’s effortless vocal abilities and his classic, razor sharp guitar work.
Brendan Benson’s vocals provided a polished contrast to White’s often feverish howls, especially on songs like “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” and “Many Shades of Black.” But the true standout that drove the crowd absolutely beyond control was the closing “Carolina Drama,” which found White at the helm of the group once and for all as he performed the song, an eerie tale of a Southern murder that takes place in none other than South Carolina.
Although I don’t know for certain, it became clear about halfway through the show that there was no set list; before the band rolled into “Hands,” Jack White quite literally held up outstretched fingers to everyone in the group, as though miming the song title. He often stayed perched aside Patrick Keeler’s drumset, calling out song titles and alluding to upcoming solos in his typical performance fashion.
Aside from the fact that the Raconteurs are a modern supergroup, it was interesting to see how much fun the band was having onstage. Rather than mask behind stage theatrics, as is custom in most of White’s past project, the show was incredibly straightforward thanks to the lack of overkill and extravagance on his part.
He often stepped back as though to give the stage to his band mates and allow them to shine on their own. It felt like genuine enjoyment for everyone involved onstage, as they laughed and joked in between songs and as they stepped slightly away from the transparency of microphones.
Help Me Stranger is the first project White has embarked on since his 2018 solo album Boarding House Reach, which felt like a frantic mess of an attempt at experimentation. With that being said, the new Raconteurs album sounds a lot like the completion of many ideas White had for Boarding House Reach, in which the songs felt incomplete and tired in themselves as tracks.
Even the album art for Help Me Stranger signifies a different side of White’s career; while the White Stripes were splattered in red and white, the Dead Weather flooded by yellow and his solo projects shaded in various shades of blue, the Raconteurs new album and respective merchandise and advertising can be identified by a bright neon green.
The color green has been said by psychologists to invoke feelings of growth and abundance, of renewal and life. It often helps those who see it to feel rested and secure. With that in mind, throughout the concert you couldn’t help but feel like this project was the missing piece to Jack White’s complimentary-colored world; like he’s finally found the missing piece of the puzzle.
And the entire time, I didn’t miss having my cell phone on me. Not even once.