There was perhaps no better way to kick off the 18th year of Austin City Limits Music Festival on Thursday, October 3rd than with The Raconteurs featuring the incomparable Jack White and his partner-in-crime Brendon Benson. The pair led a crack band on a 75-minute excursion into rock n roll punctuated by mind-melting guitar solos, furious drumming and even some impressive piano work by White during the taping, which was live-streamed around the world via ACL TV’s YouTube channel.
The band is touring their third album, Help Us Stranger, and they lead off with a track from that record, “Bored and Razed” with the kind of energy usually reserved for the latter half of the performance. Drummer Patrick Keeler wailed on his kit with such furious abandon it seemed he had four arms instead of two while White shredded his Fender with a fury that felt like it could melt his guitar strings along with fans’ faces. The Raconteurs followed that up with even more energy with “Don’t Bother Me.” The blues-inspired song allowed White to feature more of his mind-blowing, heavy licks while the rest of his band, Jack Lawrence (bass) and multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita along with Benson continued to raise the temperature of the room.
The band slowed it down a notch with White stepping over to the piano to lead the group through tracks “You Don’t Understand” and “Shine A Light On Me.” The former is a pop ballad of sorts that the former White Stripes leader nailed. The latter was more of a return to the classic rock sound that is the hallmark of Raconteurs. Truth be told, this project looks like one in which White can relax a little. He appears more relaxed than usual on stage as if Raconteurs are the endeavor White projects his more playful persona upon.
Another set highlight was the introduction to song, “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” with its repetitive refrain at the outset, “Here right now, not dead yet.” Somehow the band lifted this downer of a chorus into a guitar-driven Southern-rocker before delving into material from Consolers of the Lonely (2008) reminding the audience why the record garnered a Grammy win with “Old Enough,” “Top Yourself” and Donovan cover, “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness) before the strains of “Steady As She Goes” reached fans and they rose to their feet for the hit. The band didn’t disappoint, as White and Beeson stretched the song into burning guitar solos that left the crowd slack jawed as his prowess.
The band finished with “Carolina Drama” and White walked into the crowd during the song, hugging a fan before returning to the stage for an extended version of the song and standing ovation from the Austin City Limits TV audience.
Photos by Scott Newton courtesy of KLRU