The Raconteurs Reform, Return Home, Rock Inaugural MI Fest
The Raconteurs capped the first week of their reactivation on Sept. 17, closing the inaugural MI Fest with a blazing 90-minute set at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the group, which played two warm-up shows -- its first in three years -- in Nashville, which is now the home base for the band and for Jack White's Third Man Records empire. White, fellow singer-guitarist Brendan Benson and utility man Dean Fertita all hail from the Detroit area, and the Raconteurs -- which also includes the Greenhornes rhythm section of bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler -- formed at Benson's home studio during the summer of 2005.
During the set White told the crowd, "It feels really good to be here. A lot of people say that, but we really are from Michigan, so we really are happy to be here." He also cracked that "on the ride here I saw some cities I didn't know existed in Michigan, but I love those cities as well."
The Raconteurs 14-song set was comprised entirely of original material from the group's two albums -- 2006's "Broken Boy Soldiers" and 2008's "Consolers of the Lonely" -- kicking off with the title track from the latter and hitting its stride quickly with fierce renditions of "Top Yourself," "Old Enough" -- which White dedicated "to my mother and all the rest of you beautiful Michigan women" -- "Many Shades of Black," "Hands" and an epic "Blue Veins." The group also led the MI Fest audience in sing-alongs during encore renditions of "Steady as She Goes" and the murder ballad "Carolina Drama."
It was a family day for White, who was accompanied by his ex-wife Karen Elson and their two young children and had his tour bus stop in a Detroit suburb to pick up his mother and other members of his family. The Third Man family, meanwhile, was out in full force at MI Fest: White himself checked out an exuberant set by Detroit rapper Black Milk -- with whom White collaborated on the single "Brain" -- and chatted with members of Third Man acts the Black Belles, JEFF the Brotherhood and PUJOL, who were also on the festival bill. Third Man's yellow Rolling Records Store, meanwhile, enjoyed long lines throughout the day, with fans scooping up apparel and vinyl -- especially an MI Fest exclusive tri-color pressing of "Leck Mich Im Arsch," a White-produced collaboration between JEFF the Brotherhood and Detroit rap duo Insane Clown Posse.
The Raconteurs will drift apart again until returning to action for the Voodoo Experience festival on Oct. 30 in New Orleans, the first Orlando Calling festival on Nov. 12 in Florida and the Tabernacle in Atlanta on Nov. 13. Lawrence previously told Billboard.com that recording plans are uncertain.
The group's appearance put a triumphant cap on MI Fest, which also featured performances by Sheryl Crow, Ronnie Dunn and Michigan heritage acts such as the Romantics, Mitch Ryder, Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner and the Rockets, as well as actor/singer-songwriter Jeff Daniels. The day-long festival suffered a black eye earlier in the week when organizers eliminated a planned third stage and nine regionally-based acts along with it, and there was some confusion over ticket pricing. Michigan International Speedway officials stepped in to take over festival operations and promised to make good on the canceled bands' contracts and also book them for subsequent performances at the race track.
MIS President Roger Curtis said the facility is planning to host a second MI Fest in 2012 as well.
The Raconteurs' MI Fest set list included:
Consoler of the Lonely
Salute Your Solution
You Don't Understand Me
Many Shades of Black
The Switch and the Spur
Broken Boy Soldier
Steady As She Goes