The Raconteurs show all at the Santa Barbara Bowl why we need them after 11 years between albums

The RaconteursPhotos courtesy of The Raconteurs via David James Swanson // Written by Josh Herwitt //

The Raconteurs with Melvins //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
July 27th, 2019 //

“Rock is dead.”

It’s one of those overused catch phrases we have clung to at a time when clickbait headlines, Twitter beefs and heartbreaking stories now dominate our news feeds and timelines.

Vice’s music channel Noisey made the case only a year ago in fact, explaining that “the genre has been eclipsed in all measures of popularity and profitability by pop, hip-hop, and EDM.”

But whatever the metrics say, this isn’t the first time that argument has been advanced before.

The Raconteurs

In Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film “Almost Famous” for those who remember it, renowned music journalist and rock critic Lester Bangs tells a 15-year-old William Miller, “It’s just a shame you missed out on rock and roll.” That didn’t stop Miller from chasing his dream, though. After all, his character is based off of Crowe’s real-life experience covering rock bands like Led Zeppelin as a teenager in the early 70’s, and if anything, Miller proves over the course of the movie that the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well, that it hadn’t died by the end of the 60’s like a lot of the counterculture had after Altamont.

Much like then, there are plenty of examples today that make us question the current zeitgeist surrounding rock music and The Raconteurs have the distinct honor of being some of the best in the business right now to dispel this notion after landing at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

With the release of its third studio effort Help Us Stranger in late June after more than 11 years between albums, the four-piece consisting of Jack White (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Brendan Benson (vocals, guitar), Jack Lawrence (bass) and Patrick Keeler (drums) is finally back in the spotlight where it belongs — and for good reason.

While there are still a few months to go, we can say with confidence at this point that Help Us Stranger will most likely be one of our five favorite LPs from 2019 (see our 2018 picks here). At 41 minutes, it’s another gem from The Raconteurs and especially for White, who continues to put out music at a prolific rate — he just dropped his third solo LP Boarding House Reach last year on his own Third Man Records — that rarely seems to fall flat or short.

The Raconteurs

Led by “Sunday Driver” and “Now That You’re Gone” as its first two singles, Help Us Stranger is one of those albums you can pop on and listen to from start to finish. Its most abrasive cut “Don’t Bother Me” struggles at the onset but recovers midway through thanks in large part to White’s virtuosic guitar work. There are plenty of other standouts, though, including “Bored and Razed”, “Help Me Stranger”, “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” and “What’s Yours Is Mine” across the record, and it’s impressive how tight The Racs sound despite the long layoff.

On a Saturday night at the picturesque Santa Barbara Bowl — which we’ll argue is the best music venue in Southern California and where we caught White’s first-ever show there last year — The Raconteurs brought those songs to life as they stormed onstage and unleashed total sonic bliss on our ears with a 90-minute performance highlighted by Consolers of the Lonely tracks “You Don’t Understand Me” and “Carolina Drama”, the latter of which came during an extended encore that was capped off by the quartet’s biggest hit “Steady, as She Goes” and what ultimately inspired White and Benson to form the group back in 2005 as a couple of longtime friends from Detroit. All of this, of course, without having access to our mobile phones after locking them in a Yondr pouch and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather) assisting on keyboards and guitar as a touring member.

So hey, maybe this will be the year rock rebounds. For this music writer, it’s starting to feel that way with the return of new Raconteurs material after more than a decade and another one of our favorite rock bands releasing its first album in 13 years later this month (we’ll let you take a guess). Plus, we didn’t even mention that garage-rock duo The Black Keys issued their first record in five years this summer.

Yet, even if rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t attain the same commercial success it once had, those of us who are still giving it our time and ears at least have The Raconteurs (or “The Saboteurs” if you live Down Under). And that, my friends, should be a blessing in and of itself.

Setlist:
Bored and Razed
Level
You Don’t Understand Me
Old Enough
Broken Boy Soldier
Only Child
Together
Now That You’re Gone
Live a Lie
Don’t Bother Me
Sunday Driver

Encore:
Consoler of the Lonely
Help Me Stranger
Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)
Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness) (Donovan cover)
Carolina Drama
Steady, as She Goes

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