© 2005, 2006 Static and Feedback
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By MATT BERRY
STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent
In life, there are sometimes hints that things may end up turning out better than
you could have hoped. While sitting through the odd, if not interesting, opening
band for the Raconteurs, Dr. Dog, at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, I received just such
a premonition. The rhythm guitarist, a strange character who looked like a
combination of Beck and snowboarder Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White, donned
a faux-Donovan accent and proclaimed, “Atlanta: The Lost City Under the Sea.”
How perfect that my incredible night was to begin with a Futurama reference
regarding my beloved home city.
The Tabernacle was a new chapter in my concert-going experiences. From the
outside, this old, converted church stands as a relic of Atlanta’s past amongst the
new, monstrous buildings surrounding it, such as the CNN Center, Georgia
Dome, Philips Arena and the new, uber-expensive Georgia Aquarium. Inside, the
general admission floor is topped by three balconies. The venue is small enough
that there is truly not a bad seat in the house, but that not withstanding, mine were
still a cut above. I sat front row center of the lowest balcony, perched less than
twenty yards away from the stage.
Aesthetically, the Tabernacle is one of the best venues I’ve seen, falling only
behind our legendary Fox Theater. Acoustically, much was left to be desired. Dr.
Dog’s set was marred by a crackling microphone and an inability to hear the
vocals. Between sets, loud, crackled Western music played, some of which came
from the Kill Bill soundtrack. Later, I would see how appropriate the volume and
selection of music was.
Positioned behind the backdrop of the stage is a relic of the venue’s former glory:
a giant organ. As the lights dimmed and the crowd roared for a dose of Jack White
& Co., the organ began to blare out the theme to Phantom of the Opera, surely the
work of either White or touring keyboardist Dean Fertita. The band came onstage
to a roar that truly foreshadowed the evening to come, as the crowd was energetic
and vocal all night. A brief, loud instrumental foray into “Hands” led into the first
song, “Intimate Secretary.” Since first hearing the album this summer, I had
imagined the song as a perfect opener, as he guitars and drums lead over each
to a thunderous climax. The band did not disappoint, in part due to the ferocious
drumming of Patrick Keeler.
This being my first Jack White concert experience, my attention was focused on
him most of the night. I am a sucker for a showman. This is made clear by the fact
that I claim that two of the best concerts I have been to are both Coldplay shows
(say what you will about their music, but Chris Martin can command a crowd).
White is clearly in the upper echelon of current front men, mainly because his
presence alone makes the crowd go absolutely crazy. There is an aura about him,
a sense that he knows exactly what he is doing, and that he could be up there by
himself and would not care. We are simply lucky enough to be joining him on the
The show was filled with extended jams, alternate versions of songs and covers
more obscure than Dennis Miller after a Wikipedia visit. The band kicked things off
heavy, starting with “Intimate Secretary,” “Level,” and the first single “Steady, As
She Goes.” All three of these tracks get a tremendous boost from their recorded
versions, no doubt a credit to the energy of White and co-lead singer Brendan
Benson. The two traded guitar solos all night, occasionally leaning onto each
other, in a way that couldn’t help but remind me of Eddie Vedder or Mike McCready
leaning upon Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament in the early 90s.
The two clearly enjoy each other on stage and get a kick out of the fact that they
have managed to turn a one-off attic jam session into a successful indie-rock
supergroup. Even the slower songs (“Yellow Sun,” “Together”) that the band
worked into the set evolved into long jam sessions. An unreleased song entitled
“5 on the 5” was included, as well as an interesting take on “Store Bought Bones.”
The band played the song once through in a different fashion than the album
version, then went straight into the more familiar version, complete with its
amazingly heavy synth line.
The highlight of the evening, without a doubt, was the unorthodox cover of the
Nancy Sinatra tune “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” a song you’ll most
likely recognize as the backdrop to Kill Bill: Vol. 1’s opening titles. Benson started
the song in a straightforward manner with the opening riff, but by the time the first
pre-chorus came around, White’s fuzz pedal was full blast and the roof was blown
off that 60-year-old church. The song kept going like this for nearly ten minutes,
with precipitous choruses followed by slow, eerie verses, and so on and so on,
until every member of the audience was screaming “BANG BANG!” at the top of
their lungs. I have never seen a performer give as much of himself to a
performance as White gave on this song, and I’ve never seen an audience
appreciate it so much.
Of course, Jack had to supply one final, perfect piece of guitar work. The main set
closed with an intense cut of “Blue Veins,” a song that most Jack White fans will
associate with the pre-fame White Stripes. It’s bluesy and raw as all hell, and Jack
just doesn’t want to stop. When he finally does, the band quietly walks off stage,
as the only sounds that can be heard are the deafening roar of the crowd, and the
even louder hum of Jack’s guitar, which he left positioned perfectly on a monitor to
create the maximum feedback. After a few minutes, the feedback has been cut off
by a roadie, but the roar of the fans has not subsided one iota. They want one final
send off, and they get it.
The band reemerges and plays two more songs, with the full version of “Hands”
completing the concert just as it began. At one point in the show, Brendan Benson
claimed, “This is the best crowd we’ve had.” I’ve been to enough concerts to know
that he’s humoring us, but like all concertgoers, I didn’t care. I was in the moment,
and this crowd was incredible. This band was incredible. Yet what the future holds
for them is still up in the air.
Here’s hoping Jack finds a way to balance the White Stripes and the Raconteurs,
because it’s refreshing to hear what he can do in a stripped down, garage, blues-
rock environment and what he can do with a larger group of talented musicians.
Sept. 19, 2006
Steady, As She Goes
It Ain't Easy
5 on the 5
Store Bought Bones (alternate version)
Store Bought Bones (studio version)
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
Broken Boy Soldier
Headin' for the Texas Border
|Tabernacle event poster