Live Review: The Raconteurs Rock Steady As They Go At Jewel’s Catch One

Ray Neutron
– Return to the Road
The Raconteurs celebrate the release of new album ‘Help Us Stranger’ with an underplay at Los Angeles club Jewel’s Catch One.

The Raconteurs
Jewel’s Catch One
Los Angeles, Calif.
June 27, 2019

Sometimes it seems like Jack White is Atlas Shredded, trying to bear the weight of the rock and roll universe on his back, turning his frets into smoldering Zeus-like thunder and lightning bolts meant to bypass the right side of the brain to shatter what’s left.

Certainly, my ears were ringing for a good few hours after witnessing The Raconteurs deliver an 80-minute, full-throttle buzzsaw of a set during an underplay Thursday at Jewel’s Catch One, the historic, 300-capacity venue in Los Angeles’ Mid-City neighborhood. The block-long building on the corner of Pico Boulevard and Norton Avenue was L.A.’s first gay disco when it was opened in the early ‘70s by its namesake, African-American female entrepreneur Jewel Thais-Williams, who was blackballed from locating in Hollywood because of her race. 

The performance was one of two L.A. shows last week – the other at Amoeba Records on Wednesday – to help promote the release of Help Us Stranger, The Raconteurs’ third album and first in 11 years, as well as an upcoming summer and fall tour, which includes a July 26 performance at the city’s Greek Theatre.

Ray Neutron
– Atlas Shredded
Jack White performs with The Raconteurs at Jewel’s Catch One.

“So great to be playing in this historic building,” squeaked White at one point in his cartoon-like rapid-fire preacher spiel. “It makes us feel good.”

Indeed, White’s return to his familiar role in The Raconteurs — alongside fellow Motor City alumni and co-frontman Brendan Benson, The Greenhornes rhythm section of bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler and touring member Dean Fertita, who plays with White and Lawrence in The Dead Weather – has seemed to both energize White and focus him on classic rock verse-chorus-hook anthems, as opposed to the sprawling, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach of his ambitious, genre-bending 2018 solo album Boarding House Reach.  In fact, White hasn’t been this on point since the formalist days of The White Stripes, where the aesthetic tension came from his attempts to bust through his own self-imposed limits.

“I’m here right now/I’m not dead yet,” goes the refrain to the dirty psychedelic blooze of “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying),” one of Stranger‘s highlights, and it’s like White and company are ready to apply defibrillators to the moribund corpse of boomer rock, pointing the way to the future by plundering the past.

“Bored and Razed,” the first Stranger track, opened Thursday’s show with an unabashed nod to the band’s Detroit roots to delirious fans who had patiently waited in line since noon to pay $60 cash-only for tickets to the event, a benefit for GSA Network, an organization that supports trans and gender youth. The 15-song set was divided almost equally between new Stranger material and tracks from the first two Raconteurs albums, 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers and 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely.

Ray Neutron

Brendan Benson performs with The Raconteurs at Jewel’s Catch One.

White’s Hendrix-style guitar licks tricked up “Don’t Bother Me,” while he and Benson traded vocals on Consoler‘s “Old Enough,” Jack smiling ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat as he doled out teeth-shattering licks while teasing, “What’s you gonna do now?” Beatles-ish “You Don’t Understand Me” belied the case the Fab Four never existed, as Jack sat down at the keys to tickle the ivories like some rock Liberace. “Level,” from Soldiers, highlighted feverish string-bending and a pulsating organ solo from Fertita, who also got a chance to shine with guitar on “Help Me Stranger.”

“Only Child,” a Benson-penned song from the new album, finds him once again joining White on the mic, and one can’t help but think this is White’s most suitable position, as a member of a collaborative team where he can show off his strengths and downplay the rest. Another early Raconteurs song, “Hands,” ended the main set with an outsized, throbbing Live at Leeds orgasmic climax better suited to a football stadium, before returning for a five-song encore that took off with a corrosive jam on “Consoler of the Lonely” and a well-wish to a roadie about to leave to get married (“Now That You’re Gone”) and concluded with the 1-2-3-strikes-you’re-out finale of “What’s Yours Is Mine,” “Carolina Drama” (complete with a frenzied singalong on the “la-la-la-la” chorus) and, naturally, a grooving, undulating “Steady As She Goes.” “Are you steady now?” asked Jack White, the man who would save rock and roll, vinyl, 78s and guitar solos from the scrap heap of history. We sure are, maaaaazn… Lead the way.

Bored and Razed
Don’t Bother Me
Old Enough
You Don’t Understand Me
Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)
These Stones Will Shout
Help Me Stranger
Only Child

Consolers of the Lonely
Now That You’re Gone
What’s Yours Is Mine
Carolina Drama
Steady As She Goes