Taking a leak surrounded by Slurpees is one thing; shoehorning yourself into a free in-store quite another. But as the reviews have laid plain, the Raconteurs is White rock with less pretense: no costumes, and lyrics about girls with hands that feel and hearts that light the way, and seasoned bandmates who've paid indie dues (that is, members of the Greenhorns and genteel pop idol Brendan Benson). Best of all, it's White gone turbo-electric, as his performance under that single chandelier went a long way to prove.
With fans comfortably corralled into the aisles (thanks to employees who, after passing out free earplugs, directed people like cars in an airport drop-off lane into less congested areas), heads enthusiastically bopped along as the band launched into its set. The Raconteurs' debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, got one of its early live U.S. unveilings here, as White leaped around the stage for big hit "Steady as She Goes," the black-and-blue balladry of "My Blue Veins," and "Store Bought Bones" (which suggests, for some, that shoppers flip through Amoeba's Deep Purple selection). Despite my being stuck in the opposite corner from the stage (near Big John Patton and Oliver Nelson jazz records), and despite bright fluorescent lighting that makes Safeway at 2 a.m. seem dim, this was definitely a Big Rock Show. And it was as intimate a rock show as we'll likely get from these guys (the Raconteurs hit the Warfield with Kelley Stoltz on July 23).
The early White/Zeppelin vocal influences resurfaced live that night, and White's frantic boom complemented Benson's more stable delivery, each singer reinforcing the other's strengths. Of the two, Benson needed the loud jolt the most his pop songs lean too heavily toward the precious, and at Amoeba he hammered down more of the rocking vocals from Broken Boy Soldiers than I expected.
Forty-five minutes after the start and one quick "How are you doing? I haven't seen you in a while" to the crowd from a gregarious White the band followed its leader off the stage. But not before the ghostly pale frontman offered a cheery "Thank you so much, I love you guys." And that Gnarls Barkley CD once again went up for sale.