Before the Raconteurs even took the stage at Soma on July 19, they were building their own mythology with a theatrical soundtrack. Old West showdown music built to a pipe-organ crescendo as frontmen Jack White and Brendan Benson, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler slunk out from the shadows. (The band had asked for a lounge group featuring retirement-age musicians as an opening act, but the promoter couldn't locate one in San Diego.)
For the rest of the night, the foursome used the stage as their imaginative playground-improvising extended guitar jams, sweating through hard-rock solos and melding White's unique yelp with Benson's soaring hum. If The White Stripes is White's strict musical diet, then The Raconteurs is his indulgent release.
The band plowed through an hour-long set to a sold-out crowd, opening with the blistering call-and-response of "Store Bought Bones." Live, the songs from Broken Boy Soldiers were louder and edgier-a sound gritty, expansive and sweaty enough to have worked at a scorching summer festival show.
White and Benson shared the microphone kiss-close on the brilliant chugalug of "Yellow Sun," ran headfirst into a Norman Greenbaum riff on "Level" and thrash-screamed the chorus to the sex-blues single, "Steady As She Goes."
Both frontmen looked relaxed, matching the reverential, attentive mood of the fans. White, wearing pants so tight they were see-through, commented at one point, "With no alcohol here, someone told us-nay-warned us to keep it mellow. I don't know what you want. Well, I've never known what any crowd wants."
To which Benson replied, "They all want your guitar pick, Jack."