Mike Caulfield 15/10/2006
It's been interesting watching Jack White's growth over the past few years. My first live White Stripes experience was in the summer of 2002, watching them play at the Reading Festival following the break-through success of 'White Blood Cells'; Jack threw himself around the stage, a blur of red for the duration of their set and looking slightly uncomfortable with all the extra eyes on him. In the ensuing years there's been lawsuits, accusations of selling-out, brawling and collaborations with half-forgotten country songstresses, whilst slowly evolved into a guitar god of Jimmy Page-like proportions for this generation.
But the Raconteurs are far more than a backing group for White's guitar heroics, with the 'Broken Boy Soldiers' LP likely to feature highly in most publications 'best album of the year' type lists and, with many of the record's gems credited to Brendan Benson, it's more a period of rejuvenation for both Benson and White, whose day jobs may have become too stifling for the time being.
Kicking off the set with the slow-burning 'Level', one of the record's least interesting tracks, tonight is transformed with a searing, eardrum-piercing Jack White solo that whips the crowd into an early frenzy. It's still something of a novelty seeing White out of his usual red, white or black stage persona, and most astonishing of all is the appearance of what looks like a smile at some points during the show, which could be relating to the relaxed 'jamming with friends' nature of the group.
The introduction of the Nancy Sinatra number 'Bang Bang', recently resurrected by Quentin Tarantino and less successfully sampled by the Audio Bullies, is greeted with huge applause, tonight given a sinisterly seductive and apocalyptic make over, truly making it their own. Other early set highlights include a quietly affecting acoustic reading of the Benson-led 'Together', with some gorgeous vocal harmonies, showcasing Benson's under-acknowledged talent for writing charming pop songs.
But it's 'Broken Boy Soldiers' opener 'Steady As She Goes' that really stirs the packed out Apollo audience tonight; basked in a purple light White rips into the ode to the simple life with excited vigour, channelling the spirit of any great guitar figure you'd care to mention, before wrapping up the performance with a run through of the album's title track: it's enough to convince many that they have been in the presence of greatness this evening.
Following this UK tour The Raconteurs will be supporting Bob Dylan in America, and on the strength of tonight's performance it doesn't appear as though they will be returning to their day jobs anytime soon, but with material this good it's a fair trade.