11:44 AM GMT 21/05/2013
Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK
Is there currently a more electrifying performer of rock music than Jack White? Channelling driven craziness at the piano at one point tonight, his kinky black bangs flapping wildly, he conjures a dark phantom of the Killer himself.
Indeed, there is more than a little of Jerry Lee Lewis's mania - and machismo - about the man born John Anthony Gillis, somewhat north of the Mason-Dixon but whistling Dixie in his crib. He plays with old-fashioned values, sometimes creditably, sometimes in a way that feels weirdly reactionary, but always on an edge of jeopardy that's been filed down to a predictable dullness by the majority of his contemporaries. Guitar strapped on, he marches convulsively about the stage, interrupting himself and bandmates with squealing guitar solos that always appear to burst out of nowhere, out of the moment.
White is touring his unexpected, spacious, groovy and brilliant first solo album, Blunderbuss, with two backing bands - one all-male, one all-female. They appear to alternate but MOJO is assured that it is decided at breakfast on the morning of the show which will appear, so fans never know quite what they're going to get. It's a very Jack White gambit, pitting men against women in an atavistic battle of the sexes.
Tonight it's the girls. Fine by MOJO, who saw this revelatory combo - powered by the extraordinary, splashy, trashy beat of Carla Azar on drums - at London's Forum in April. For White, whose protagonists tend to be done down by womankind ("The Nurse should not be the one who / Puts salt in your wounds," he once sang. "But it's always with trust that the poison / Is fed with a spoon." He'd make a fabulous Othello) it seemed a timely abasement in the temple of fem power. Testosterone offset with oestrogen, White found his inner slink and there were moments that recalled that other megalomaniacal multi-instrumentalist, Prince.
Tonight is more bombastic, more showy than that Forum performance. White seems more confident now that this works, and there are times - as there tend to be with him - when he verges on the overbearing. It's the rough you take with the smooth of his megawatt personality and modern-classic catalogue.
The latter - songs recorded as the White Stripes, Raconteurs and The Dead Weather - has been dusted off and cleverly revised for a group that do country (Lillie Mae Rische's fiddle and Maggie Björklund's pedal steel really shape this sound) in a driving krautpunk style, so that Hotel Yorba becomes a bulldozing barndance and My Doorbell a hysterical strut, while familiar dips into the roots portfolio (Son House's John The Revelator; Hank Williams' salvaged You Know That I Know - more faithlessness there) are brilliantly energised. You're reminded of the motto of White's pre-fame Detroit upholstery business: "Your Furniture's Not Dead." White has always valued old things and nursed them lovingly back to life. Once it was sofas, then it was the blues; now it's White Stripes songs.
The new tunes, too, have attained an extra-lush layer of velour. Nick Cave would now envy the Brecht'n'Weill ruche of Blunderbuss's Weep Themselves To Sleep. The psychedelic lilt of On And On And On and rakish time signatures of Take Me With You When You Go gain durability; Missing Pieces becomes massive, visceral, hilarious: a reminder of how attractive White is when he takes himself slightly less than seriously.
White closes with an imperious demonstration of his cultural heft and reach. The White Stripes' 7 Nation Army - a riff chanted by thousands of fans at almost every one of this month's European Championship football matches - turns the Apollo stalls into a pogoing morass. Then, changing gear with consummate ease, he parts with Lead Belly's tender, tortured Goodnight Irene. We are blessed, and on our way.
Skipping through the lobby en route to the exit, Thom Yorke and companion look lit up, and rightly so. The Radiohead man is easily as talented and bloody-minded as tonight's star, but he can't do what White can. On this form, he's on his jack: a category of one.
by Danny Eccleston
Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
Weep Themselves To Sleep
I Guess I Should Go To Sleep
You Know That I Know
On And On And On
I'm Slowly Turning Into You
Blue Blood Blues
Ball and Biscuit
Freedom At 21
Steady, As She Goes
Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
We're Going To Be Friends
Take Me With You When You Go
Seven Nation Army
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 10:33 AM GMT 26/06/2012