Live Review: Jack White, live and in person, at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, Thursday 3rd July, 2014

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

Jack White attacking his Fender Telecaster. Photo: David Swanson. Source: Jackwhiteiii.com

Jack White attacking his Fender Telecaster. Photo: David Swanson. Source: Jackwhiteiii.com


Originally published by Entertainment Ireland. To read the original, please click here.

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.

Jack White jamming with his band of seasoned players. Image: Dan Swanson. Source:

Jack White jamming with his band of seasoned players. Image: Dan Swanson. Source: jackwhiteiii.com

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’.

Jack White holding his beloved 1950′s Kay Hollowbody Archtop guitar during a break in set closer 'Seven Nation Army'

Jack White holding his beloved 1950′s Kay Hollowbody Archtop guitar during a break in set closer ‘Seven Nation Army’. Image: Dan Swanson. Source: jackwhiteiii.com

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.

Jack White and his band bid the audience good night after a triumphant show at London's Hammersmith Apollo.

Jack White and his band bid the audience good night after a triumphant show at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.  Image: Dan Swanson. Source: jackwhiteiii.com


Set List

  1. Sixteen Saltines
  2. Astro (The White Stripes song)
  3. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
  4. High Ball Stepper
  5. Lazaretto
  6. Hotel Yorba
  7. Temporary Ground
  8. Ramblin’ Man / Cannon / Ramblin’ Man / Cannon
  9. Icky Thump
  10. Missing Pieces
  11. Three Women
  12. Love Interruption
  13. Blunderbuss
  14. Top Yourself
  15. I’m Slowly Turning Into You
  16. Holiday in Cambodia (Dead Kennedys cover) (snippet)
  17. Ball and Biscuit

Encore:

  1. Just One Drink
  2. Alone in My Home
  3. You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
  4. Hello Operator
  5. Would You Fight for My Love?
  6. Broken Boy Soldier
  7. Blue Blood Blues
  8. Steady, As She Goes
  9. Seven Nation Army


What Twitter Thought

I’m thinkin’ ’bout my smartphone / When ya gonna ring it, when ya gonna ring it? : Jack White calls out audience members fixated with their phones during gigs

Nashville based singer- songwriter Jack White complains that audience members at gigs are apathetic and fixated on their phones instead of matching the energy that he and his band give out to them. He’s absolutely right, writes Philip Cummins.

I smell a rat: Jack White has voiced his displeasure at Generation Y audiences obsessed with their phones.

I smell a rat: Jack White has voiced his displeasure at Generation Y audiences obsessed with their phones.


THE REVOLUTION
 will, as with everything else, be tweeted.

Rolling Thunder: Jack White vents his spleen in a Rolling Stone cover interview ahead of the release of Lazaretto.

Rolling Thunder: Jack White vents his spleen in a Rolling Stone cover interview ahead of the release of Lazaretto.

On the eve of the release of Lazaretto, Jack White’s second solo album proper-  and what must now be his 15th record, all side projects and White Stripes material considered- Detroit native White has complained, in a cover interview with Rolling Stone, that audience members “can’t clap any more” because they have a drink in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. Gone are the days, White implies, that people would launch themselves around the venue, throwing all manner of shapes and letting themselves free- free of their socio- economic constraints, their work commitments, their suburban ties, their anxieties- in an effort to match the energy and vibrancy powered by the group of musicians on the stage.

No. Generation Y’s insistence on being in the loop is to the detriment of life in the moment. Tweeting / texting in cinemas and at gigs and taking instagam snaps of dinner and drinks in restaurants has become par for the course. In the culture, there is now a compulsion to tweet everything one is doing and instagram everything that one is eating for their breakfast, lunch and dinner.


YouTube glory hunters

Most of all, however, Generation Y feel compelled to be ahead of the pack, especially so at gigs. I have not been to a gig in the last five years where there hasn’t been at least twelve people, usually dispersed amid the rows in front of me, insisting on taking out their iPhones and iPads, capturing video and audio footage of the gig to upload that footage on streaming sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo, before anyone else, in a desperate effort to claim YouTube glory, scooping kudos from fellow fans.

Technology and social media are both mediums that connect users to the world in ways that, twenty years ago, were unimaginable: unquestionably so. However, in a social setting- a gig, a meal at a restaurant, wherever one might be- social media and technology alienate us from those around us, perhaps most pertinently at gigs. Collectively, gig goers fixated on their mobile phones drain the room of any energy; the mood and atmosphere, thereby, dull, unremarkable and uninspiring.

I think that I can safely deduce from White’s comments that this is what happens when people spend half their time at a gig on a phone: whatever energy they would have previously thrown back at the stage is now going into live updates on Twitter and on Facebook, as well as selfies and instagram filters of crowd pics that are also uploaded on social networking sites.


#Judas: Classic gigs re-imagined

Iconic gig: Sex Pistols live at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4th June 1976

Iconic gig: Sex Pistols live at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4th June 1976. The gig would later inspire some of Manchester’s most important figures such as members of Morrissey, Tony Wilson and members of Joy Division.

The apathy of audiences at live shows, which as a regular gig- goer and a reviewer for print and on-line media I have witnessed consistently, is best gauged by remarkable gigs of years gone by where technology was neither a distraction nor a compulsion for audience members.

Consider the following: would the Sex Pistol’s iconic gig at Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4th June 1976– hypothetically, of course- have carried the same cultural, social, generational impact that it clearly did if future members of Joy Division, future Smiths front man Morrissey, members of Buzzcocks and Factory records impresario Tony Wilson et al had taken selfies while the Sex Pistols were playing  in the background? Possibly not.

Would John Cordwell have bothered heckling Bob Dylan at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on 17th May 1966 with cries of “Judas!” at Dylan’s remarkable gig, of which authors wrote feature-length books, or would Cordwell, perhaps, have been too busy broadcasting his disgust live on Twitter with the hashtag #Judas ? 


The role of promoters / venues and personal responsibility

Concert venues could learn an awful lot from theatre companies and theatres, both of which have persistently combated against talking, texting, tweeting and all other behaviour that is a general annoyance not just to those audience members around them, but, crucially, to performers. How peeved would any of us be if the glare from the screen of a mobile device or the ringtone of a device were to throw a performance off-key; a performance that has been months in the making and hundreds of hours in rehearsal?

Unfortunately, concert promoters and venues care little about gig going etiquette: once promoters, venues and artists’ management have their fees from ticket sales they care little about what actually happens at the gig, save for illegal or actionable behaviour.

Everyone, however, bears some responsibility, I feel: venues, promoters and, most of all, participants. I use the word “participants” very deliberately: everyone who attends a gig contributes as much to the energy and the feel of the room as the musicians and the sound personnel. Just ask any of those who were at Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4th June 1976.