Better than…all of the Dead Weather albums put together.
The man who built his career on secrets came to the Wiltern last night. Secret marriages, secret singles built inside of albums, secret shows in vans, Jack White writes his own rules and tells no one his future plans. The man who built his own record company in Nashville, Third Man Records (named after a movie that is all about secrets), has drawn such an unusual array of talent, including Wanda Jackson, Beck, Stephen Colbert and Insane Clown Posse, you never know who he's going to release next.
At 36 he's built three successful bands (White Stripes, Racounters, Dead Weather) before inexplicably dismantling all of them. Now, he's solo at the Wiltern for two nights. But even last night he had to keep us guessing. On this tour he has not one, but two bands backing him up: a male group (The Buzzards) and a female ensemble (The Peacocks). One would just be boring.
And why do we put up with this constant barrage of smoke and mirrors for over a decade? Because we love it. Deep down inside our hearts, there's a little kid who's still thrilled by peekaboo and what is inside of birthday presents, a person who loves spy thrillers and what's lurking around the next corner, a person who wants their rock heroes to never reveal their true names or take off their stage make up. We love the air of mystery that follows every Jack White project.
Dressed in all black, with his signature mussed black hair falling in his eyes and ghostly pallor, Jack White took the stage trying very hard not to smile. Perhaps the roar of jubilation from the crowd amused him, maybe he had just heard a joke backstage, but despite his best efforts White looked mighty pleased to be here. The Buzzards draped around him in a semicircle, all dressed very sharply in black and white, suits and ties, professionalism radiating. These handpicked hired guns came from all over the country, from Brooklyn to Nashville, to do one job: keep up.
No easy task when the band leader is Jack White. The savagery with which he attacked his baby blue guitar was something to behold. As the first few notes of the opener “Black Math” ripped through the air, everyone in the room knew a little part of them was going to hell that night…and liked it. We were here for stories of betrayal and heartbreak and bizarre dreams all backed by fiery guitars, fearless fiddlers, and heart stopping drum solos.
White put together a set that showcased all of his talents from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs and even the collaborative album he put together with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi. Hit radio singles like “Seven Nation Army” and “Fell in Love With a Girl” weren't even performed, instead White had us fall in love with a long lost Hank Williams song that he reimagined for the album The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. And he was repaid with devotion. “We Are Going to Be Friends” was sung primarily by the crowd as thousands of onlookers unabashedly opened up their throats and sang along, clapping in time with the music.
So continue to confound us, Mr. White, with your artistic projects, wardrobe, and marital partners. Just as long as you keep writing lyrics that speak of human vulnerabilities and keep playing that guitar, we'll follow you wherever you go.
Personal Bias: I own all of The White Stripes albums.
Overheard in The Crowd: “I'm missing my kid's recital for this. She'll understand. She's a singer.”
Random Notebook Dump: Goosebumps? Check. Hot flashes? Check. Cold sweat? Check. Chemical reactions I can't explain? Check and check.
Set list below
Black Math (White Stripes)
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Two Against One (Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi feat Jack White)
Hotel Yorba (White Stripes)
Top Yourself (Racounteurs)
I Cut Like a Buffalo (Dead Weather)
Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground (White Stripes)
You Know That I Know (From The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams)
We're Going to Be Friends (White Stripes)
I Guess I Should Go To Sleep
Take Me With You When You Go
My Doorbell (White Stripes)
Freedom at 21
Ball and Biscuit (White Stripes)