Posted on 10/05/2011
Written by Guest Blogger Terri Gibson
Nashville, The Ryman, The Raconteurs. All three share the commonality of legendary status, and boast of a mix of country, blues and rock. Although The Raconteurs formed in 2005, and have released only two albums (Broken Boy Soldiers and Consolers of the Lonely), their fan base has categorized them into an obscure, yet popular act. The band consists of Jack White (Vocals, guitar, piano), Brendan Benson (Vocals, guitar), Patrick Keeler (Drums), and Jack Lawrence (Bass).
I have been a fan of this group for a couple of years now, having found the video to their popular hit, “Steady, As She Goes”, on You Tube. This caused a chain reaction of “I wonder what else Jack White has done”, which led to becoming a fan of The White Stripes, and The Dead Weather, two of White’s other bands. After barely securing a ticket for myself (the show sold out in less than thirty minutes), I was more than ready to experience seeing The Raconteurs in person.
Having never been to The Ryman before, I was excited about seeing the inside for the first time. To see the stage where legends such as Elvis Presley and Loretta Lynn had performed was going to be amazing. I had heard The Ryman was a great venue to catch a show because of the small, intimate setting and the acoustics of the auditorium. A friend had also told me there weren’t really any bad seats in the Ryman (unless you were sitting behind a support pole). My seat was in the balcony and I was not disappointed. I am only 5’2 and I was able to get a clear view of the stage. Before I got to my seat, I found myself in line for the merchandise table. I thought I was in line to get inside of the auditorium. This worked to my advantage because I got my t-shirt and legendary poster made by Hatch Show Print, before the opening act started. I found out later that people were still in line for merchandise an hour and a half later.
As I settled into my seat (the seats at the Ryman are actually church pews), I looked around and observed just how many people had on fedoras (a Jack White favorite). There were people from all age groups, ranging from a few kids to senior citizens. I spotted an elderly lady wearing a White Stripes t-shirt. Several women had bright red hair (another favorite of Jack’s), and there were several who were dressed as if they were rock stars themselves. It was definitely fun to people watch before the show began. Soon, the lights went down and the opening act was introduced. I found myself enjoying the toe-tapping, hand-clapping tunes of “Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three”. A blend of country blues, early jazz, string ragtime and western swing made me feel as if I were visiting another place in time. Pokey and his boys were all dressed in legendary clothing as if they stepped out of a Frank Sinatra film or an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
The second opening act consisted of a two-piece (drums and guitar) rock act named Jeff the Brotherhood. Brothers Jake and Jamin Orall hail from Nashville and their father, Robert Orall, is a successful singer, songwriter and producer. Their musical style of garage rock, punk, pop, and psychedelic rock has earned them several tour dates and LP releases, including one live album from Third Man Records. As Jack and Meg White proved with The White Stripes, this act has also confirmed a two-man band can definitely entertain and these brothers did not disappoint the audience. With choppy, grinding guitar licks and drumming reminiscent of 80’s heavy metal, the audience was totally connected to the performance which left them wanting more as they exited the stage.
Finally, the big moment arrived and crowd went wild as The Raconteurs made their appearance on stage. Their first song of the night was “Consolers of the Lonely”, with shared vocals from Brendan and Jack. The great thing about these guys is that I noticed right away their sound did not differ from what you heard on their record. In other words, what you hear recorded is what you get live, save for a few minor variations in lyrics and vocal deliverance. The second song, “Hands” is one of my personal favorites and got the crowd moving to the beat. “Level” was another song with shared vocals from Brendan and Jack, with some fantastic guitar riffs. One of my favorite things about “The ‘Teurs” is their versatility. This was displayed in the song “Old Enough”, which has a country/bluegrass feel to it. If you check it out on You Tube, there is a video version of the song which features Ricky Scaggs and Ashley Monroe and is definitely worth checking out. “Top Yourself” was next, followed by “You Don’t Understand Me” which featured Jack White on piano.
I love watching performances of artists who have the talent to finish a song, then pick up or use another completely different instrument in the next song. During this time, I worked my way down to the first row of the balcony to take some pictures. It proved to be a little difficult since Jack White moved around so much, especially on the next song, “Many Shades of Black”; a song which tells the story of a relationship gone wrong. Their next song, “The Switch and The Spur”, has a cowboy/old west feel to it and is a ballad about a wanted man breaking out of jail. The style immediately changed to more of an alternative feel when the band played “Intimate Secretary”. Once again, this was a shared song by Brendan and Jack and it got the crowd jumping and singing along. “Broken Boy Soldiers” was next on the list and kept the audience moving with its fast pace beat and lyrics. The last song, before the encore performance, was “Blue Veins”; a slower, bluesy homage to a girl whose love for him runs deep in her veins as she has stood by him while others did not. As they left the stage, the crowd began to clap, yell and stomp for more. The Raconteurs answered the call and got the already hyper crowd even more excited with the energetic “Salute Your Solution”. I had waited all night for the next song, “Steady as She Goes”, and was glad this was part of the encore. They closed out the set with the murder ballad, “Carolina Drama”. This is one of my favorite songs which leaves you wondering exactly what happened as the ending quips “If you must know the truth about the tale, go and ask the milk man”. Jack & his boys hugged, bowed together and thanked Nashville before they left the stage. I watched as they exited, and was touched to see Jack’s daughter spring up and hold her arms out to him. He scooped her up into his arms, and walked into the hallway of the exit door. He had seamlessly eased from articulate performer to caring parent. It was close to 11:00 p.m. and I wondered if Jack told her “Let’s get you home, it’s late”.
This is one performance I will never forget. The band transitioned with ease from one song to the next, and were clearly seasoned professionals. I was impressed with the enthusiasm and spirit they put into all their songs, as well as how well they engaged the audience. Being the huge Jack White fan I am, I admit to being a little biased, however I was very impressed with his prodigious musical talent. When White dips his brush in the various colors of musical genres, he creates a masterpiece. His other collaborations with Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, Danger Mouse and Alicia Keys are some of his best works. Brendan Benson is originally a solo artist and, his vocal and musical abilities are impressive as well. He and White pair well with each other and remind me of another famous guitar/vocal pairing in Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora; as far as how great they sound together. Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence both come from a band called “The Greenhornes”, a garage band from Cincinnati, OH. At this time, I am not aware of any new releases from The Raconteurs but there are a few dates scheduled within the next couple of months including a show in Atlanta. The only minor disappointment I had came from not hearing a couple of my personal favorites, “Rich Kid Blues”, and “These Stones Will Shout”. However, that did not cast any bad light on the performance, therefore, on the Concert Blast Scale, I will give The Racontuers a 10 (out of 10). This was my early birthday gift from my family, and one of the best gifts I have ever received. If you are a fan of The Raconteurs and have never seen them play live, you will be glad you did… And, if you have never been to the Ryman before, I believe you will be impressed with it as well. As the lady sitting next to me said, “I never turn down the offer to see a show at the Ryman”.
Written by Terri Gibson
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Tags: 9/15/2011, blog, Brendan Benson, Broken Boy Soldiers, concert review, Consolers of the Lonely, Hatch Show Print, Jack Lawrence, Jack White, Jeff the Brotherhood, Nashville, Patrick Keeler, Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, Ryman Auditorium, Terri Gibson, The Raconteurs, TN