When I first heard that Jack White and Brendan Benson were recording an album together, I was ecstatic. For a huge Brendan Benson fan like myself, any word of new material is exciting, so adding Jack White and The Greenhorns to the mix seemed like it would be heaven sent. White and Benson are longtime friends who had collaborated in the past, and I always thought it would be a perfect fit for the two to further explore that relationship. At about 7:45 on Friday night, I made my way to Irving Plaza for an eye witness account of The Raconteurs' first Stateside performance, a moment I had been anticipating for months.
As soon as opening act The Muldoons had performed and the Pee Wee Herman clips turned off, the lights went dim and The Raconteurs came on stage to a thunderous roar. It was nice to see Jack White in normal clothing instead of the "ok, we get it" red and white dress code that he and his "sister" Meg have become known for. The band started with "Level," one of many songs that sound like they could be b-sides to any one of Brendan Benson's three albums. Even though Jack White was singing backup, it wasn't until he started playing his guitar that you remembered who was on stage. However, Jack's guitar playing on Friday seemed nervous, uneventful, and, for lack of a better word, tame. What normally comes out of that guitar is crunchy and screechy, and while the technical aspect of producing such unique tones is totally beyond me, I know it sounds like nothing else. I've seen the White Stripes perform a few times and every time I see them I'm reminded of the fact that Jack White is a modern day guitar legend in the making. While he still proved himself to be a great guitar player on Friday, he didn't convince anyone he was the icon that he had established himself as.
It was nice to see Jack White in normal clothing instead of the 'ok, we get it' red and white dress code that he and his 'sister' Meg have become known for.
On the Benson-penned songs, White is usually singing backup, and although their voices could not be more opposite, the result works perfectly. I never liked Jack White's version of Benson's "Good To Me" because Jack White's aggressive singing didn't work with the sugary vocals of the song that I was so used to, but Benson's bubble gum voice seems rougher with White's high-pitched snarl, and White's voice seems sweeter while singing above Benson. The two even each other out perfectly. It was very fitting that it was on the ballad "Together" that the two really shined. "I'm adding something new to the mixture/So there's a different hue to your picture," crooned Benson. It was an obvious message that became the defining moment of the night.
The band played a rather short set consisting of a handful of the songs off Broken Boy Soldiers and a few covers, including Love's "A House Is Not A Motel" and Ron Davies' "It Ain't Easy." It was on "Blue Veins," the album's closer, that the band decided to really rock. Jack White knows how to play the blues and he didn't let anyone forget it during the encore, but it still seemed like too little, too late to elevate this show to the stuff of legend.
I came into Irving Plaza expecting an "event." Most concerts are just that - they're concerts. But when Jack White, Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler, and Jack Lawrence share a stage for the first time on the continent of North America, you expect to see something epic. You expect to see a show that you can tell your grand kids about, or at the very least, brag about to your friends. Overall, I went into an over hyped rock concert and came out with a smile on my face. I got to see Brendan Benson perform a few new songs, and I got to see Jack White play guitar for an hour. Unfortunately, I saw nothing that would constitute the use of the word "epic". It was just a concert.