Of all the projects Jack White has been involved with, including his own burgeoning solo career, I always felt The Raconteurs came out on top and the reason why is plain. This was an opportunity to be a part of a band where he didn’t fully direct the flow of traffic. Now you could say that The Dead Weather has the same dynamic with only the replacement of Brendan Benson with Alison Mosshart being the switch, and that’s true mostly in terms of personnel (not to discount the Patrick Keeler/Dean Fertita differences), but Benson provided something none of White’s collaborators thus far have really been able to add – a distinct voice of his own to stand up to White’s autocratic personality. In that, I see The Raconteurs as the closest thing the 2000s has yet gotten to a ‘70s/early ‘80s rock band type. This comes through on the DVD The Raconteurs Live At Montreux 2008.
As part of Eagle Vision’s long-running series of concert DVDs documenting the Montreux Jazz Festival, it might seem like overstepping to add The Raconteurs in with the likes of Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and all the others that have taken part, but watching it certainly brings to mind just how “old school” the group was. We have to assume the group, as ramshackle a formation as it was, is on somewhat a permanent hiatus. Even with a new single out through Third Man Records (which are unused tracks from
Consolers Of The Lonely) all the principals say they’re busy with their own things. If the time is ever right again and things fall into place, they’ll be back. Kind of sounds like what I hear when asking for a third date I know I’ll never achieve, right?
Fortunately we have this performance to help us make do, and it looks and sounds great. The push and pull between Benson’s pop-rock leanings and White’s garage rock and blues tangents positions the band squarely as a rock group, and they comport themselves throughout as such. The setlist may disappoint those looking for a substitute White Stripes show as the material is strictly focused on songs from Consolers and Broken Boy Soldiers. It goes both way however. Benson had recorded a lot of material
himself prior to The Raconteurs and had just as much to offer, excepting the public recognition, so the equal footing shared across the group solidifies it as its own entity.
I’ve had mixed feelings about Eagle Vision’s previous entries in this series, but those range mostly from elements out of their control. Some performances were released from big name artists that were, in my mind, weak and appealed only to a completest fan base for either the artist or the collection’s concept. Other entries had great performances that were sullied by older recording technology. I realize that back in the early 1980s nobody was really considering capturing these shows for more than a one-time
broadcast (likely on MTV or PBS pledge week) so the strobing in lenses, electronic distortion in the video cameras and issues with wildly divergent contrast were just things that happened, they were the nature of the business.
In our modern age of high definition cameras and studio-quality live audio, those things are not a problem anymore, and so the information of the Raconteurs program looks and sounds terrific. That they presented a unified organization much like the ones that would have shared the Montreux stage(s) back in the earlier days feels like a combination of the best of both worlds – a classic rock group with new material in the best possible recording conditions. In other words, barring a major shift in how this band’s outside dealings shake up, this is likely as close as you’re going to get to seeing The Raconteurs live again. Thankfully, the quality of this presentation makes that easy enough a prospect to live with.
The Raconteurs: Live at Montreux 2008 is available from Amazon.com.