The Show Must Go On
Some musicians are lead singers, some are frontmen, some are great frontmen. Then there is the kind of person who can walk into any band, onto any stage and that band steps up their game. The audience are in for a treat when this person walks onstage. This is a band leader. Jack White is a band leader. There was one thing from this gig that impressed me it was when Jack said, “We’re all in this field here, I don’t know what the name of it is, I don’t even know what the name of the town is.” For most this would call for a booing but it was what he said next that struck a chord with me. Having said he doesn’t know the name of the town he said, “But you and I, we’re all human beings and we’re all here together right now.” I liked that.
Thursday night in The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham was a wet night. Very wet, in “Would You Fight For My Love” Jack sings, “Just as I am always scared of water, but not afraid of standing out in the rain”. I wasn’t afraid of standing out in the rain for this. I’d been anticipating it for some time. Jack walked on stage tying his tie, wearing a stylish John Dillinger style straw hat. Smiles all around, we were ecstatic. The first notes of “Highball Stepper” roared, Jack covered his mic with his straw hat and blasted through the song on his Telecaster. The crowd went wild, breaking out in a manic rain dance of sorts.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Jack the last time he played in Ireland for the Blunderbuss tour. That night I wanted to hear some White Stripes, however that was too much to expect since he was promoting his new solo album. This time he burst into classics like “Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground” and “Hotel Yorba”. Maybe it should be expected, but “Ball and a Biscuit”, “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me” and “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket”, were all lovingly received on the night. To hear White Stripes songs played by an entire band is a very different experience compared to the peeled back raw power of the old duo.
His band at the moment are a fine mix of musicians, there’s plenty of country influence with a heavy jazz style but they can rock too. To look at them they reek of class. His new sound is a deep interwoven mix of all American early twentieth century folk including jazz, blues, Appalachian bluegrass all with a heavy buzz of an electric guitar and soulful song writing.
Track after track he never let up on the energy, Alison Mossheart of The Kills and The Dead Weather joined him onstage for “Love Interruption” which was very nice to see. It was also kind of expected considering The Kills were his support act. One of the highlights for myself was hearing “Would You Fight For My Love”.
There was a short break before he came back on stage with a roaring rendition of “Icky Thump”, followed, very surprisingly, by a cover of The Stooges song “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, which I was delighted to hear being a fan of The Stooges. He played a few Raconteurs songs during the evening most notably “Top Yourself” and “Steady As She Goes”.
As the rain let up, finally the blues came ripping out of the speakers as Jack played the delta blues-esque “Little Bird”. Again with a whole band this really sounded different but good! The solo being a particularly fine played piece. When he finished this, he teased us with a note or two of the next song. My friend who was at the gig with me said that it was “Seven Nation Army”. No sooner had he said it that the song began at full pace. This song will always get a good reaction.
Finally he played a song I had been hoping to hear, a folk song originally by Leadbelly. “Goodnight Irene”. A lovely 3 chord waltz about the troubled relationship between the writer and his love Irene. Jack does an excellent version so I was very happy when he played it.
Something else happened that night. Something I’ve never seen before. The venue pulled the plug mid song. We were all taken aback by this; I was lucky enough to be up very close and could hear Jack’s voice. Not to be deterred by the plug being pulled he stood on the edge of the stage and sang “Goodnight Irene”. He urged us to sing along and we gladly obliged. Overall he played a very respectable 26 songs before he was forced off, with a group bow and a wave and the lights came on and they left the stage. It was a night not easily forgotten.