Since first coming into greater consciousness in 2001 with the release of The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells, Jack White has built a body of work as a musician and producer that has been matched by few others. Presenting his different musical guises in distinct visual aesthetics and forever being ambiguous about anything in his world other than the music, White has become one of the great rock ‘n’ roll iconoclasts of the past decade.
Now as a solo artist, White continues to do things in his own unique way. For one thing, he has two backing groups (one all-male, one all-female) that accompany him on tour. The audience doesn’t know which group will appear on any given night until the show begins. Visually, White’s colour scheme has turned to blue and black. This includes his record sleeves, backdrop, lighting towers, stage wear and the three-piece suits and bowler hats of his roadies.
The show opened with a well-received set from local songstress Lanie Lane; who released the Ain’t Hungry/My Man seven inch on White’s Third Man Records label in mid-2011.
As the lights went down after the interval, five shadowy figures took the stage; it was Los Buzzardos, White’s all-male players. After a cacophonous explosion of noise lead by drummer Daru Jones, White emerged and led the band through the familiar riff of The White Stripes’ ‘Black Math’. After a couple of run throughs, the riff gave way to a far heavier more unyielding version of the song.
The early part of the set was fairly heavy on material from White’s first solo release, Blunderbuss. The organ-driven ‘Missing Pieces’ brought things down to a nice mid-tempo groove after the frenzy of the opening number. ‘Love Interruption’ and ‘Freedom At 21’ both had the crowd in full voice. During ‘Weep Themselves To Sleep’ and ‘Trash Tongue Talker White’ took to the piano to replicate the bar room boogies that are distinctive on record.
The latter part of the set included songs from all three of White’s groups. With the added augmentation a bigger band brings, well-known tracks like ‘Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground’, ‘The Same Boy You’ve Always Known’ and ‘Hotel Yorba’ took on fresh and interesting forms, particularly with the addition of pedal steel, organ and fiddle.
Versions of The Raconteurs’ ‘Broken Boy Solider’ and ‘Blue Veins’ as well as The Dead Weather’s ‘Cut Like A Buffalo’ were particular highlights; the latter feeling slightly more frenzied than the original.
The encore was a crowd pleaser with a rocking version of ‘Sixteen Saltines’ kicking things off, followed by The Raconteurs’ ‘Steady As She Goes’. The night was closed with an all-out mass singalong to ‘The Hardest Button To Button’ and ‘Seven Nation Army’. Again, the songs took on different forms to the simple format The White Stripes had played them in the past but they both stayed fairly true to the originals.
Having had some pre-gig uncertainty about whether presenting his older songs in such a different format would be bordering too much on cabaret, it was very relieving to realise that these ideas were nothing but runaway anxiety.
Jack White’s deep-seated musical principles that he has stuck to throughout his various projects are what makes him the musician he is today. His evolution into a solo artist is just another step in a career that continues to sidestep preconceptions.