A White Stripes reunion — of a sort — was just part of the fun as The Raconteurs kicked off their first North American tour in 11 years on Friday night (July 12) at the Masonic Temple Theatre in Detroit, in the same place where Jack White and Brendan Benson started the band 14 years ago.
During the lengthy encore of the ferocious 16-song, 90-minute show, White gave a shout-out to Meg White, his ex-wife and partner in the White Stripes, who was sitting in the band’s family and friends in a box alongside the stage. The show itself, however, was all Raconteurs, a high-octane celebration of the now Nashville-based group’s chart-topping third album Help Us Stranger. It dominated the show, as the troupe, following two warm-up club shows the previous weekend in Aspen, pulled out eight of the album’s tracks — including a lusty romp through a cover of Donovan’s “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)” with Mary Ramirez of the Detroit Cobras adding another guitar to the mix.
Debuting a stage production that included subtly striped columns and a textured backdrop drawn from the Help Us Stranger graphics (as well as plenty of green lights, also from the album’s motif), The Raconteurs took off from the tight polish of their recordings to stretch, expand and improvise on most of the songs.
The characteristically frenetic White, who managed to knock over his microphone stand just minutes into the show during the opening “Bored and Razed,” played piano on “You Don’t Understand Me” and switched between guitar and keyboards during the lengthy “Top Yourself.” “Consoler of the Lonely,” the bluesy “Now That You’re Gone,” “Hands,” “Sunday Driver” and “Blue Veins” were attacked with a communal devil-may-care exuberance, while “Live a Lie” channeled vintage, late-’60s Detroit-style punk.
Benson-fronted songs such as “Old Enough” and the new “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” softened the set, slightly, with a Laurel Canyon-styled folk rock vibe. “Steady, As She Goes” closed the night with a widely smiling White leading a call-and-response sing-along with the crowd.
Friday’s show was the culmination of a busy homecoming week for the Raconteurs. White and Benson celebrated the former’s 43rd birthday on July 9 with an acoustic show at Third Man Records’ Detroit store and record pressing plant. On July 11 White hosted an all-star baseball game at Hamtramck Stadium, a former Negro League field he’s helping to restore. And throughout Friday’s show he spoke about the Raconteurs’ beginnings at Benson’s old home on Detroit’s East Grand Blvd., lamenting that the group — whose longtime utility man Dean Fertita, of Queens of the Stone Age and Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression band, also hails from Detroit — didn’t capture enough video footage of its formation.
At one point White also played civic booster, commanding the crowd to “give up the suburbs and move into the city of Detroit and take this motherf—er over!”
The Raconteurs play a second show in Detroit on Saturday (July 13), and its North American tour is currently booked into November, after which the group will play a short South American run with more dates expected in 2020.