Jack White‘s been busy these days with his own solo project and recording with his supergroup the Dead Weather, but he hasn’t forgotten about the Raconteurs, his band with Brendan Benson. Last night at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, White and Benson reconvened on stage for a few songs at an all-star benefit for the David Lynch Foundation simply dubbed “Brendan Benson & Friends.”
Dressed in black and rocking a rust-colored blazer, White garnered a standing ovation and inspired deafening applause from fans before he played a single note. That excitement only accelerated when the pair, backed by Benson’s house band, launched into a blown-out run through Benson’s power-pop stomper “Good to Me,” a song the White Stripes covered as the B-side to “Seven Nation Army.” They kept that energy going, jumping into Broken Boy Soldiers standout “Hands,” with the same blunt force. In trademark fashion, on both tunes White choked out squealing howls of high-pitched feedback when trading licks with his bandmate. By the end of “Hands,” White and Benson were sharing the mic, resting their heads on each others’ shoulders as they belted out the final chorus.
Although Jack White is typically a shoe-in to steal the show whenever he takes the stage, many of Benson other “friends” came close. Georgia hard-rocker and in-demand producer Butch Walker galvanized the crowd on Benson’s shuffling folk-pop ditty “What I’m Looking For.” The Howlin Brothers opened the show with a spirited rendition of Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Leadbelly’s “How Long Blues” that featured accompaniment from Ricky Skaggs and weepy pedal steel lines courtesy of former longtime Bob Dylan sideman Bucky Baxter, a fixture onstage throughout the night. Baxter especially shined while backing Benson and his old boss’s son, Jakob Dylan, on a faithful rendition of the Rolling Stones‘ “Loving Cup.” And songwriter Jesse Baylin dueted with Benson on his tense tune “Pretty Baby” — one of the more moody moments of the evening.
Benson and White closed the evening with an elongated performance of the Raconteurs’ signature tune “Steady as She Goes.” “That’s a tough act to follow, but I’m gonna do it anyway,” Benson quipped as White left the stage. He then closed the show with a haunting approximation of Eric Burdon and the Animal’s sinister, brackish blues-psych classic “When I Was Young.”