June 10, 2014
Jack White said some controversial things regarding his relationship with Meg White and his distaste for The Black Keys and his divorce and whatnot in his recent Rolling Stone cover story. Then a few days later, he issued an apology for said controversial statements. Some question the authenticity of this apology, while others just keep on blathering.
While intriguing, and helpful in further mythologizing the already mythological musician, the fact is that none of this shit matters in comparison to the music that White makes, and the force, velocity and care with which he makes it. His show last night at The Fonda was nothing if not a very loud reminder that he is one of the more important rock stars of our time, not only because he is forthright and quirky, but because he is just that much better than everybody else.
The show, the first of three White is doing in Los Angeles this week, was gloriously heavy, and while happening on the same day as the release of his sophomore solo LP Lazaretto, was as much a greatest hits spectacle as a showcase of new material.
Before the set, a man wearing the White roadie uniform – black pants, black shirt, suspenders and a bowler hat – came onstage and requested that the only thing the audience have in their hands during the show was a beer. He went on to say that if we should want pictures, concert photos would be made available on White's website the following morning, “depending how drunk the photographer gets tonight.” It's a testament to the devotion of White's fans that blessedly few phones and cameras were brought out for the duration of the set.
See also: More photos from the show
White came onstage with his five piece band and went straight into the 2001 White Stripes classic “Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground.” Wearing black pants, a black long sleeved shirt, blue suspenders and a wedding ring (or at least a ring on his wedding ring finger), White reminded the audience that they were on television (“like Captain Kangaroo”), as the show was being streamed live on KCRW and NPR. (You can watch the entire thing here.)
White then did Lazaretto's title track and the howling guitar instrumental “High Ball Stepper.” The crowd knew every word to “Hotel Yorba,” and held tight through the new “Temporary Ground,” a song White announced that he “co-wrote with a ghost.” Hank Williams' breakup classic “You Know That I Know” was next.
“I'm feeling particularly talkative tonight,” announced White, who then said very little for the rest of the show and intermittently took pulls from a bottle of champagne.
White's sound hasn't changed dramatically since 2012's Blunderbuss, but his live show sounds fuller than ever before. It was unabashed, blistering guitar rock. A lady next to us literally passed out. White's excellent band (featuring singer/violinist Lillie Mae Risch, who toured with White's all-female backing band The Peacocks) fully swings and extends a distinctly country vibe as a function of the violin and general turn of the century sharecropper aesthetic. There was even a theremin solo.
What's amazing about Jack White is his consistency. The quality of his product is never compromised, whether it's his albums, live shows, or oddball endeavors including helping Neil Young cut a vinyl record live on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last month, setting the Guinness world record for releasing the world's fastest record, pumping out all sorts of rarities from his Third Man label or declaring his appreciation for “the majesty of taxidermy” on cable TV show American Pickers. For all this, he is both utterly original and the stalwart of a dying breed of rockstar, ranking right up there with Young and Bob Dylan (with whom White is friends) in the canon of great American musical legends.
“I hope you feel something now that you didn't feel six hours ago,” White announced mid-show. The shared feeling in the room was one of being dually stunned and thrilled at hearing all these songs (“Fell In Love With a Girl”! “We're Going to Be Friends”!) that we thought we might never hear live again. There was much head banging.
After closing out the set with “I'm Slowly Turning Into You,” the band came back out and delivered the most generous encore a Jack White fan could have hoped for, as the group (plus drummer Carla Azar from The Peacocks) delivered a righteous version of rock lust anthem “Ball and Biscuit.”
They then did “Icky Thump,” the title track from the White Stripes' final LP, followed by a devastating version of “You've Got Her In Your Pocket,” which with the treatment of the full band sounded lusher and more fully realized than any White Stripes version. White then teased the crowd with the opening riff of the Raconteurs' “Steady As She Goes” and then instead tore into Blunderbuss' “Love Interruption” and the Stripes' “Little Bird.”
From there, the most iconic guitar riff of the last decade was dropped, as the show ended with a raging, massive version of “Seven Nation Army” which found the audience singing the “ooh oh oh oh oh ooooh oh” melody while White yelled “I'm going to WICHITA.” It was bliss.
And that was it. “Thank you, continue what you are doing,” a smiling White said to the cheering audience before exiting the stage. “I appreciate it.”
Personal bias: I wrote this.
Overheard in the Crowd: “I'm really glad that we could be here to experience this together.” (Said one teenage boys to his two teenage buddies.)
Jack White plays The Mayan Theatre tonight and The Fox Theatre in Pomona on Thursday.
Set list below
Dead Leaves And Dirty Ground
High Ball Stepper
You Know That I Know (Hank Williams cover)
You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As Your Told)
Fell In Love With a Girl
Three Women (ft the piano)
Alone In My Home
We're Going to Be Friends
Top Yourself (reprise)
I'm Slowly Turning Into You
Ball and Biscuit
You've Got Her In Your Pocket
Seven Nation Army
See also: More photos from the show