The Raconteurs, Birds of Avalon @ Bimbo's, 4/23/08

I resisted the idea of Jack White as my generation’s rock star for a long time. After last night’s show, I have come to my senses.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the music, or there was too much hype, or anything like that. My beef with Jack was that, in my opinion, he lacked authenticity. It was hard for me to buy into a boy from Detroit creating music that was so identifiably Southern. Granted, this only partially seeped through in the White Stripes, but, let’s face it, Meg White is just not that great. And I’m bitter that her performance anxiety canceled the show I was supposed to go to last summer.

This show sold out fast. People were offering $250 for these $25 tickets.

Bimbo’s is a beautiful venue, and it’s a shame that I don’t get to go there very often. It’s a bit to classy for the bands I often go to see. Your drinks are served in real glasses, tables are set up very fine dining style, and people actually look a bit dressed up for the affair.

Due to the Will Call line, I only caught the last song or two of Birds of Avalon. The set sounded promising, but what was even more intriguing was the girl going at it on the guitar. I am definitely looking into that.

Between sets, these little mechanical birds are flown out to the audience, and the audience keeps them going. I’m surprised no one lost an eye- those things fly hard and fast, and sometimes straight down. It was an interesting replacement for the beach balls you used to see. The intermission ‘music’ was more like the soundtrack to a horror film- ambient sounds and screams. It definitely set an interesting tone for the evening.

The band finally comes out and launches in to ‘Consoler of the Lonely’. White has his back turned to the audience, nicely showing off his silver screen jacket. He keeps his back to the crowd for what seems like forever, and you can feel the audience willing him to turn around. He finally does and screams ensue. A man yells “I love you, Jack”. Only in San Francisco.

Brendon Benson sports a sheriff’s badge on his guitar strap, which I find to be a nice touch. His mop of blonde hair and his vocals paired with White’s country goth look and wicked physical guitar playing make me think of Page and Plant. Really, many things about the evening remind me of Zeppelin, and that is never a bad thing.

The crowd is captivated into quietness, giving almost lackluster applause with mouths agape. The only loudmouths are, of course, standing next to me- druggies who are superfans, but nonetheless annoying. They clap loudly, go “duh-duh-duhdudhduh” along with the song. The manfriend had to tell them to “shut the fuck up” and they still kept it up. Because they are druggies.

The band plays on. With two albums of material, we are taken through the upbeat and the ballads, the Southern and the Blues, the storytelling and the nonsensical…it’s quite a trip. Almost every person plays multiple instruments. Sometimes, they even tune their own guitars. Fancy that. There is little banter with the audience, except for Benson’s remark that “this is a loud crowd for San Francisco”.

The set starts out as a Jack White show, but it’s not long until it becomes clear that it is about the band as a whole. They recreate their songs for the stage without losing their big lush sound. By the end, when White steps from behind the mic and finishes ‘Carolina Drama’ without it, it instantly becomes the Jack White show again. There’s just something that happens when the mic goes away, there’s a rawness about it that just makes everything seem real…and risky. Saul Williams did this with his spoken word pieces last month, and its effects are dramatic.

The Raconteurs work not only because they have a bona fide rock star in the band, but because they are one of the only decidedly rock bands left. It’s not a hybrid, it’s not experimental, it just is. And it rocks.

Sometimes the hype is right.

Set List (I need some help with the order)

Consoler of the Lonely
Hold Up
You Don’t Understand Me
Top Yourself
Old Enough
Level
Attention
Steady, As She Goes
Salute Your Solution
Rich Kid Blues
Broken Boy Soldier
The Switch and the Spur
Many Shades of Black
Blue Veins

Encore
Pull This Blanket Out
Hold Up
Carolina Drama

OVERALL: 9.5/10
The Raconteurs performance: 9.5/10
venue (Bimbo’s): 8.5/10
crowd/scene: 6.5/10 (those two assholes ruined it for the rest)
value ($25.00/ticket): 10/10
memorable: 9.5/10 (I got a kick-ass poster!)

Raconteur, def: a person who excels at telling anecdotes.

HRC pics:

brendan

white

encore

Youtube vids:

Carolina Drama

The mic-less moment:

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