Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., May 9, 2008
The RaconteursStubb's, May 2 & 3
"We've never played the same set twice," boasted Jack White to the Chronicle prior to the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival. That wasn't saying much then, since the newly formed Raconteurs were still working the kinks out of debut Broken Boy Soldiers, but his claim proved paramount during the band's two-night stand at Stubb's. On Friday, the powdered White frontman appeared complacent in the background, adding squalling electric leads that ruffled the curtain backdrop as troubadour Brendan Benson showcased his range through ballads like "The Switch and the Spur" and "Many Shades of Black," both of which sounded a bit lackluster without the mariachi trumpets on the originals. Whether manning the keys for a plaintive "You Don't Understand Me" or consoling acoustically with the "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" of "Top Yourself," which found auxiliary instrumentalist Mark Watrous on fiddle, the spotlight never wavered from the White Stripes' general, and only when he embraced it during the thunderous "Broken Boy Soldier" and "Store Bought Bones" did the set truly ripple. Immediately apparent from the energy of both nights' opener, "Consoler of the Lonely," the Raconteurs were predictably more comfortable and personable on Saturday. Benson and White established a more dynamic balance through the call-and-response layering of "Level," a righteous reading of Terry Reid's "Rich Kids Blues," and the frantic "Salute Your Solution," seamlessly strung together and accelerated by the Greenhornes' tandem of drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence. The highlight both nights came from set and debut LP closer "Blue Veins," White's shrieking solos and plaintive cries of devotion channeling both Page and Plant, especially during Saturday's rendition, which started starkly on piano and progressed to an incinerating meltdown of guitar. Ending each evening's encore with rousing, Dylan-esque narrative "Carolina Drama," the Raconteurs proved to be men of White's word.