The Raconteurs clearly got the band back together to have a damn good time.
And after being away for more than a decade, they want as many people as possible to share in that good time. At a sold-out Armory, the quartet made a celebrated return to Minneapolis in support of their first new record in 11 years, Help Us Stranger. Their 90-minute set echoed Detroit's proud garage-rock history as well as the Nashville roots that ring through their modern rebirth.
The band (guitarist/vocalists Jack White and Brendan Benson, bassist Jack Lawrence, and drummer Patrick Keeler, joined by keyboardist Dean Ferita of Queens of the Stone Age/the Dead Weather) bounded on stage like they were Joe Louis getting ready for a heavyweight title fight. In an orange and black diamond-pattern shirt, White looked like a mischievous Harlequin ready to play tricks on the unsuspecting court subjects gathered before him.
White once again instituted a no-phone policy (just as he did at his solo show at this same venue last year), so the crowd was immediately engaged at the start of the show, without any digital distractions. Amid a squall of guitar feedback, the band tore into "Salute Your Solution," with White and Benson trading off rapid-fire verses as though hurrying through the words to get back to the blazing guitar riffs that carried much of the show.
"Bored and Razed" was both a condemnation of the tedious aspects of the musical industry, as well as a celebration of the band’s Detroit past. The track perfectly encapsulated where the Raconteurs come from, where they've been, and where they might be going. It was such a dynamic rendition that White emphatically yelled, "YEAH!!!" as the song wound down, like he knew they just tore that jam up.
During the build-up to "Level," Benson and White's voices imitated the sounds of bells chiming, ringing out in honor of either the rebirth of indie rock or mourning its long-rumored demise. After a completely filthy version of that song, there was little doubt that rock was still in good and capable hands with this spirited crew of musical lifers.
"Minneapolis! How you doing? You act like we've never met before. Don't you remember us back in the day?" Benson teased, as he started up "Old Enough." And when the crowd sang along with him at the start of the classic, he nodded his head in recognition, saying, "Yeah see, we've met before." But the singalong quickly dissolved, causing him to laugh and admit, "Maybe we've never met before after all."
White played keys on "You Don't Understand Me," which featured an extended piano jam and lengthy coda from Jack, reinforcing his musical versatility, as if his throngs of fans who sold out yet another room in the Twin Cities just to see him play needed any more convincing 20+ years into his inspiring career.
"Top Yourself" had a raw, Stooges-like urgency to it, and even though the Raconteurs current tour t-shirts proclaimed they were now repping Nashville, this show was a long celebration of the hard rock sound of Detroit. That city brought this band together and gave Benson and White their musical start, and this show was a testament to how much they still love Detroit.
"Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying)," with its repeated outro of "I'm here right now, I'm not dead yet" served as an anthem of perseverance and hope. The rest of the main set was an intense flurry of guitar squall and boisterous rhythms, with the band tearing through "Don't Bother Me," "Broken Boy Soldier," and "Hands." And as they left the stage for an early encore break, you fully realized just how much music they packed into just 50 fiery minutes.
The band coasted just a bit during the generous six-song encore, like kids on bikes who had to pedal like hell just to get to the top of the biggest hill in town, but could now let gravity do the work while they built up speed going down. If the encore just didn't quite match the intensity of the main set, however, that’s more a testament to how damn good the first part of the show was, not a slight on what followed it.
White even teased the adoring crowd as he returned to the stage, "You sure you want us to come back out?" A lively take on "Consoler of the Lonely" tapped back into the energy from the main set before the band stretched things out a bit on "Now That You're Gone" and "Sunday Driver," which featured a psychedelic breakdown reminiscent of "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Current single "Help Me Stranger" and a ferocious version of closer "Steady, As She Goes" added some sonic fireworks to an already celebratory night. The Raconteurs made their grand return to Minneapolis, and their set was a brash testament to the enduring relevance of American rock and roll born in the heartland.
Salute Your Solution
Bored and Razed
You Don't Understand Me
Somedays (I Don't Feel Like Trying)
Don't Bother Me
Broken Boy Soldier
Consoler of the Lonely
Now That You're Gone
Help Me Stranger
Steady, As She Goes