ACL ‘08 Performance Review: Not a Raconteurs Review
This time last year, as Bob Dylan’s ACL set drew to a close, there was a moment of truth. “Do I just call it like I see it, or go easy on a guy who’s a beloved musical legend?” I have to admit I split the difference then, but not this year. Not again.
I actually love this former Jack White side-project-gone-bigtime. The Raconteurs’ two albums rock hard (maybe harder than the White Stripes, but not quite as smart) with a pop sensibility that borrows heavily from ‘70’s arena rock minus its worst features. The band has a distinctive stage presence and style, favoring porkpie hats, old-school black vest/tie combo and the occasional paisley Telecaster. Backstage I saw a virtual Raconteurs mafia (black suits, obligatory porkpies, hipster tiepins) roping VIPs into place, including the likes of Lance Armstrong and Go-Go Kathy Valentine. The band skipped up the ramp (like in the rock documentaries) and were greeted onstage with a thunderous roar –all of which seemed to confirm that this was the-show-to-be-at Sunday. Somewhere in the second song (the usually fun quasi-metal thumper ‘Level’), I had to admit that it just wasn’t doing it for me. Maybe it was the flat, muddy, bass-heavy mix. Maybe it was the crowd, whose responses seemed less passionate than Pavlovian. Perhaps it was the setting sun that made looking at the Jumbotron a better option than squinting at the stage. Or perhaps it was the sneaking sense that for a band like the Raconteurs, this was just another festival? It sure didn’t feel like bonafide rock and roll.
To be fair, I’ll never know if this show was really good, because…
I left. After song 4, I was done. Enough. Story assignment be damned, this was depressing.
What happened next, however, was a genuine revelation; one of those crack-in-the-sky moments that makes you happy you came to ACL.