5 Minute Gig Reviews; Jack White

In the White Stripes’ heyday, their fans often bemoaned the constraints of Jack White’s creative output that his sister/ex-wife/something put on him; she was no great drummer, and people always wondered what Jack could achieve with a proper, professionally trained group of musicians doing his bidding. Well, on the 22nd of June, 2012, London found out, at Mr White’s solo show in the HMV Hammersmith Apollo. It did not disappoint.

Backed by his all-female backing band The Peacocks, White treated the 5000 strong crowd to a setlist spanning his entire career, including tracks from all 3 of his previous bands, a fair lashing of cuts from his solo album, along with a couple of classic country covers. This may paint a picture of a gentle, middle class/aged gig, especially taking the support band First Aid Kit’s beautiful set of harmonised folk into consideration, but I tell you now; this concert was terrifying.

The stage may have been devoid of any digital equipment, but White managed with ease to whip the crowd into the kind of frenzy that Skrillex obsesses over; the set-opening Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground resulted in a violent forwards lurch in the crowd, and the heavy hitting highlights of Blunderbuss, Love Interruption and Sixteen Saltines, left no time for rest, the former’s gentle bluesy melodies disfigured and tormented into heavy rock. At one point, after Jack had introduced Stripes classic Hotel Yorba with “we’re gonna play a country song now” and caused a minor earthquake, a certain gamma scientist on the run from the US government finally lost his cool and transformed into the Hulk, who ran straight into the mosh pit. No one really noticed, he only lasted a few minutes in the pit before getting exhausted and having to hit the bar for a strong drink.

This was thanks in no small part to the Peacocks, who put an exciting and often heavily aggressive spin on White’s tracks that should act as a warning to any misogynistic gig attenders expecting gentle treatment; the drummer in particular resembled a Chinese doll possessed by the demon spirit of Kieth Moon, grinning manically whilst surveying the destruction caused by her performance (she was previously in Autolux, and is to blame for my favourite drumming track of all time).

That’s not to say White himself didn’t shine; he delivered each line of each song with the same careless swagger that made him a 00s icon, contrasting wonderfully with the dulcet tones of backing singer Ruby Amanfu. The best moments ofcourse came when he broke out the classics; you can never be certain of what setlist Jack White will play; throughout his solo tour no two gigs have been the same, and the night before at Brixton Academy he played neither Seven Nation Army or My Doorbell, but tonight he delivered both with vigour, resulting in naturally enormous sing-alongs. Performances of Dead Weather and Raconteurs tracks were particularly interesting, as they were entirely transformed live; the former’s Blue Blood Blues was played with such angry, heavy power that a lesser band would have renamed it Mosh Fuel, whilst the latter’s fm rock staple Steady As She Goes was transformed into a classy yet punkish romp with layers of slide guitar and violin, punctuated by one of White’s signature unhinged guitar solos.

In an alternate universe, Jack White would have never formed the White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather, but would have simply existed as a solo artist from day one (after all, he wrote all the songs aired tonight himself) constantly backed by the Peacocks (or his other, all-male backing band, the Buzzards). Would he have achieved the same fame? Maybe not, after all the chemistry between Jack and Meg undoubtedly helped make the White Stripes’ music so enticing, but nonetheless, we would have been still been treated to amazing shows like this one.

Setlist:

1. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes song)

2. Missing Pieces

3. Sixteen Saltines

4. Love Interruption

5. Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes song)

6. Weep Themselves to Sleep

7. Cannon (The White Stripes song)

8. I Guess I Should Go to Sleep

9. You Know That I Know (Hank Williams cover)

10. On and On and On

11. I’m Slowly Turning Into You (The White Stripes song)

12. Blue Blood Blues (The Dead Weather song)

13. Ball and Biscuit (The White Stripes song)

 

Encore:

14. Freedom At 21

15. Steady, As She Goes (The Raconteurs song)

16. Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy

17. We’re Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes song)

18. Top Yourself (The Raconteurs song)

19. My Doorbell (The White Stripes song)

20. Take Me With You When You Go

21. Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes song)

22. Goodnight Irene (Leadbelly cover)

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