Concert Review: The Raconteurs Powerstation April 16, 2019

The Raconteurs played their first proper gig since November 2011 at Auckland’s Powerstation, serving up 90 minutes of riff-driven rock & roll.

In case you’ve forgotten, The Raconteurs are Jack White and Brendan Benson (vocals and guitars) along with Jack Lawrence on bass and drummer Patrick Keeler, both formerly of The Greenhornes.

Jack has got the band back together, they’ve recorded an album and they’ve played three dates at Third Man Records in Nashville.

Now, they’ve made their official return to touring here in Auckland. And the Powerstation turned out to be the ideal location.

Needless to say, the show sold out…and the crowd was buzzing when I arrived shortly after 9pm. DJ John Baker set the mood with the sounds of The MC5 testifying from their classic debut album, Kick Out The Jams. One young audience member asked me who was playing over the PA. He had never heard of The MC5 and was amazed that this music could have been released in the 1960s.

With anticipation ratcheted up, the four members of the band, along with auxiliary touring musician Dean Fertita (of QOTSA,) who played keyboards and guitar, took the stage.

“I’m bored to tears”, sang Benson as Jack White slammed home the riff to Consoler Of The Lonely, the title track to their 2008 album.

Then we got a taste of the new record when they followed with Bored And Razed. Despite the boredom theme, no one in the venue was yawning…on stage and in the audience it was complete rock & roll mayhem.

Cheers when up as Jack and Brendan played a twin guitar “solo” during Level, with Jack announcing afterward that this was Brendan’s virgin trip to New Zealand and commenting on the “spectacular views” even from his dressing room.

After Old Enough, Jack moved over to piano for You Don’t Understand Me, straining at times to hit the high notes, but ultimately succeeding.

“Here’s another old one”….and White was back on guitar for Hands.

“Do you feel alright? I’m feeling good tonight!”

White seemed genuinely thrilled to be back on stage with his mates and the audience clapped along as he delivered a frenetic , somewhat unhinged vocal performance during Salute Your Solution.

“That means a lot”, were White’s heartfelt words after the crowd sang along to Now That Your Gone, a song released as a single this past December.

Then, after a shout-out to Holiday Records, it was on to the country-tinged Help Me Stranger, the not-quite title track from the new album, which is called Help Us Stranger.

This then led to, what was for me, the evening’s musical highpoint, a stunning version of Sunday Driver, complete with a Beatle-esque middle eight and a frenzied psych guitar workout at the end which seamlessly segued into Steady, As She Goes.

By now the energy level had reached fever pitch and Jack and the boys closed out the set with an incendiary Blue Veins, proving that this band can play the blues if they want to, Jack’s dramatic pleading bringing the song home.

Of course there would be an encore.

This one began with a cover of Donovan’s somewhat obscure tune, Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness), which will also feature on the new album. Then a new song, Only Child, a slower, quieter tune about a “prodigal son (who) has come home again to get his laundry done”.

Then came the pummeling rocker that is Broken Boy Soldier and finally Jack and Brendan’s Southern gothic ballad, Carolina Drama.

The crowd was right with them until the end, singing the final line, “Go ask the milkman”, back at White.

A perfect end to a perfect show.

The sound was clear and loud and the audience enthusiastic and keen to listen. And, they kept their phones in their pockets during the entire show, a fact that Jack White thanked them for when he returned for the encore.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:

The Raconteurs set list:

  1. Consoler Of The Lonely
  2. Bored And Razed
  3. Level
  4. Old Enough
  5. You Don’t Understand Me
  6. Hands
  7. Salute Your Solution
  8. Now That You’ve Gone
  9. Help Me Stranger
  10. Sunday Driver
  11. Steady, As She Goes
  12. Blue Veins
  13. Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)
  14. Only Child
  15. Broken Boy Soldier
  16. Carolina Drama