Ah, this morning I am eventually waking up – not quite there yet – and my hair is askew, my feet ache from hours of standing on a cement floor, and I can literally feel my puffy eyes expanding further. I sit here typing in black pajamas, all rocked out from last night’s Raconteur’s show. For a number of reasons, it was disappointing: a peculiar crowd with too many creepy asswipes, an oppressive security force, and a very short set with too many extended songs from the band. They are a talented bunch of guys, very much so, but I ended up bored, leaving before the end of the show. I also wanted to avoid the dude I kicked. Heh.

Anyway, I woke up thinking about the show and what I had been hoping it had been, and what in particular I liked. Of course, the star of the Raconteurs is Jack White, better known to some of you from The White Stripes. He is a musician I admire greatly, for essentially the same reason I appreciate Beck and Elvis Costello. All three of them are musical historians, and freely integrate all types of influences into their work, in slightly different ways.

Costello, from a different generation than the other two, grew up with a father, Ross MacManus, who was a reasonably well-known British bandleader, big band, standards, pop. I can’t really think of a musical genre Costello has not used – opera, classical, blues, punk, soul, pop, country – to varying success, but explored nonetheless. He’s a smart man, that Elvis, and it is easy to see how he needed to keep expanding his writing and performing to keep his own interest going. The commonality in all his work and through all those styles is his dense lyrical wordplay. Elvis likes words, oh yes he does. At best, which is pretty often, his lyrics are incredibly clever, with multiple meanings and layers that sometimes take repeated listenings to pick up fully. When it doesn’t work, he is alienating and obscure or the words come off punny and throwaway. I have seen Ol’ El in concert more times than I can accurately remember, beginning in 1979, and he almost always delivers a fantastic show. My only real complaint is that sometimes he likes to hear himself emote a little too much. Repeating the line “say you wouldn’t KID ABOUT IT, say you wouldn’t, say you wouldn’t, say you wouldn’t…” 8 MILLION TIMES at the end of the song became a running joke. SAY YOU WOULDN’T! SAAAAAAAY YOUWOULDN’TTTTT! Ha ha, oh Elvis. I love ya.

Beck and Jack White, who have actually done a little work together, seem to be very kindred souls to me, although Beck leans more to urban influences and White to garage/rock. Both of them have a strong fondness for country, blues, folk, and soul as well. Both are humorous and quirky, but also have great depth and range in their lyrics. Beck’s “Sea Change” album is very beautiful, very sad, speaking of loss and endings; White often writes about the realities of love and the painful outcomes of seeing with clarity as in “A Martyr For My Love For You.” Both are passionate performers who obviously love to play, love music completely.

They, along with Costello, cleverly integrate musical and lyrical nods to other performers and genres in a way that makes me smile. These are three guys who have spent hours and hours and hours listening to music, digging into the vaults of musical history, and know how to bring it to us in a way that is unique. Bands like Oasis and Green Day are also musical historians in a sense, but bring nothing novel – they directly rip off the artists they so admire to such a degree that both might as well be cover bands. Why not just write “Lucy In The Pie With Diamonds” and change a couple of chords?

So, despite my disappointment in last night’s show, I am glad to have seen it for the flashes of the Jack White I dig. Dig these vids.