One of only a handful of indoor dates on the current stretch of his tour in support of second solo LP proper Lazaretto, Jack White’s seamless blend of folk, blues, country, hip- hop and old- school rock n’ roll reveals an artist who combines a wealth of experience with youthful hunger and enthusiasm, writes Philip Cummins
SPEAKING to BBC Radio One’s Zane Lowe during a live session prior to tonight’s sold out show in Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo, Nashville based Detroit native Jack White vented his frustration of playing his sets at festivals and outdoor venues, particularly in light of his recent performance at Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, which received mixed reactions from critics and fans alike: “I guess I’m trying to put on a club show for 100 people in front of 100,000 people”, conceded 39 year- old White.
Previously, White has described festivals as “a necessary evil”. In an interview with BBC news during September 2012, White claimed “I don’t get excited about festivals – they’re not my favourite place to play…everyone’s drinking and lazing in the sun and walking around and that’s a fun thing for them but it’s not interesting for me.”
Tonight’s show, then, finds White in his natural habitat; an indoor venue packed with a capacity crowd of 8,500 dedicated fans who snapped up tickets within minutes of the show going on general sale, the show selling out almost immediately.
Tearing into ‘Sixteen Saltines’ from 2012’s excellent Blunderbuss, White’s band of seasoned players perform comfortably at their own rhythm, mixing up the tempo of the song and improvising naturally and with little labour. White Stripes fan favorites ‘Astro’, ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’ and ‘Hotel Yorba’ follow, the latter of which is given a “Nashville” treatment with added fiddle and pedal steel, gaining more character and depth with additional musical arrangements.
Similarly, tonight’s version of ‘Top Yourself’, a White tune from The Raconteurs’ Consolers of the Lonely, gains more intensity and more complexity. It’s the effortless blend of bluegrass arrangements with White’s ferocious guitar tones that make a fine example of White’s negotiation of the Americana roots music of Nashville and the garage rock of his native Detroit. The same is true of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As Your Told)’ from 2007 White Stripes record Icky Thump, the title track of which also blends beautifully with the title track of recent second solo album proper Lazaretto.
Throughout tonight’s set, it becomes more and more apparent that styles win out: the rap- rock of ‘Lazaretto’; the frenetic blues of ‘Ball and the Biscuit’ (recorded at London’s Toe Rag studios during sessions for 2002 classic Elephant); the Nirvana- inspired ‘Steady, As She Goes’; the Let it Bleed– era Rolling Stones- inspired ‘Just One Drink’; the funk- blues of Lazaretto opener ‘Three Women’, based on Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Three Women Blues’.
While ‘Seven Nation Army’, arguably White’s best known track, is becoming old hat as a set – closer, it’s the sheer breadth of White’s musical references and, most importantly, his interpretation of those references that marks him out as a true original.
Tonight, as with last night’s secret, medical- themed show in a basement just off London’s Strand, after which White theatrically collapsed on stage and later wheeled off stage on a stretcher, it’s clear that White is occupying the same ground as Tom Waits did in the 1980s; an uncompromising artist and performer, gloriously and blissfully out of step with modern tastes and trends and a showman who makes his peers look like wallflowers. We’re lucky to have him.
- Sixteen Saltines
- Astro (The White Stripes song)
- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
- High Ball Stepper
- Hotel Yorba
- Temporary Ground
- Ramblin’ Man / Cannon / Ramblin’ Man / Cannon
- Icky Thump
- Missing Pieces
- Three Women
- Love Interruption
- Top Yourself
- I’m Slowly Turning Into You
- Holiday in Cambodia (Dead Kennedys cover) (snippet)
- Ball and Biscuit
- Just One Drink
- Alone in My Home
- You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
- Hello Operator
- Would You Fight for My Love?
- Broken Boy Soldier
- Blue Blood Blues
- Steady, As She Goes
- Seven Nation Army