Jack White-fronted garage rock group The Raconteurs had one request of attendees at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre Friday night (July 26): no cell phones allowed.
“We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it in person,” a note from the band on the Greek’s website read.
Though this was typical of any White-associated show, the policy this time was a bit more strict than his verbal plea for no phones during 2015’s Lazaretto tour. Upon entry, all devices were placed in locked Yondr pouches, which were kept on your person but unable to be accessed until the end of the show. Since taking away a journalist’s phone is basically a handicap, I was endlessly grateful to have packed a notepad and pen at the last minute.
Though experiencing a concert completely lacking a cell phone proved to be refreshing, it threw me for a loop as a reporter. How did music writers do this before the Notes app? As the lights dimmed and my neat handwriting turned to chicken scratch, I realized I was about to find out.
Here are the six best moments from the technology-free show.
“It’s just one of those nights, isn’t it?”
After opening the show with “Bored and Razed” off their new album, Help Me Stranger ,followed by “Level” from 2006’s debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, co-frontman Brendan Benson addressed the crowd. The most talkative of the group, Benson knew the show would be special, saying: “It’s just one of those nights, isn’t it?” Benson and White made a compatible pair, with Benson’s guitar matching his green outfit and White’s reddish-orange model complimenting his pumpkin-colored pants. Oftentimes, it felt like the two were finishing each other’s sentences, both with their words and guitar riffs.
The Phone Smuggler
Turns out White’s no-phone plan wasn’t fool proof. To my shock and dismay, the girl next to me pulled out her phone halfway through the set, snapping pictures and a few videos. It baffled me as to how she pulled off such a stunt — and I was solidly impressed that she chose to flaunt it — but security soon arrived to give her a talking to. Although I love taking videos during a concert as much as the next twenty-something, I found myself siding with White despite my own disobedience of the rule back in 2015. In the end, it comes down to respect for the artist and those around you. That being said, I enjoyed seeing several other phone smugglers get busted throughout the concert.
“Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)”
Definitely a musical highlight of the set, “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)" showcased the acoustic and electric guitar partnership that seems to be the backbone of The Raconteurs’ gritty-yet-smooth sound. Starting out slow and building to the audience chanting the lyrics, “I’m here right now, I’m not dead yet,” the song’s performance was as entertaining as it was cathartic. With The Raconteurs playing just one more song before exiting the stage, it left the crowd in good spirits.
“Blue Veins” with Josh Homme
Returning a few minutes later for an encore that was only one song shorter than their main set, The Raconteurs proved that they don't play around. Midway through the encore which was admittedly a little too long, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, a friend of White’s, casually stepped on stage to add a fourth guitar to the epic “Blue Veins.” Delivering an insane, drawn-out version of the song, White and Homme battled back and forth in riffs, sending the audience into a frenzy that made it hard to focus on the next three songs.
It was at this point in the night that the man directly in front of me asked, “What is it you’re writing down?” After briefly explaining my career of choice, the stranger — whose name was Charlie — gave me his two cents on White: “I’ve seen him seven times now,” he said. “He’s one of the last people putting out new rock and roll.” Perhaps Charlie has a point, as I haven’t been to a show in a while that felt nearly as tried-and-true rock and roll as this one. Maybe it was my lack of a cell phone or White’s signature grovel, but the nostalgia was definitely there.
“Steady, as She Goes”
Finishing the set with a bang, The Raconteurs played their smash hit from 2006, “Steady, as She Goes.” Asking the audience to sing “Are you steady now?” in response to the chorus’ “steady as she goes,” it was the ending to the night that everyone wanted. Looking around, I have to admit that it was great to see everyone completely in the moment, with no screens blocking my view or distracting others. Though it was obviously too much to ask of some people and will continue to be met with an eye roll, White might be onto something.
The Raconteurs’ Greek Theatre set list:
"Bored and Razed"
"You Don’t Understand Me"
"Top Yourself"/"Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)"/"Gloria"
"Don’t Bother Me"
"Help Me Stranger"
"Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)"
"Consoler of the Lonely"
"Salute Your Solution"
"Shine the Light on Me"
"Now That You’re Gone"
"Blue Veins" (with Josh Homme)
"Steady, as She Goes"