The musical mad scientist that is Jack White has been a juggernaut of rock music for a good few years now. Both with The White Stripes and with his side projects, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, he has written some of the most memorable riffs of a generation, composed crazy, artistic and innovative songs with equally amazing videos and has spearheaded the revival of the blues… all whilst acting like an over-the-top Johnny Depp character. So with the recent tour supporting his latest solo effort ‘Lazaretto’, I headed down to a gig in God’s own county to see whether or not he still had the magic touch.
After a few minutes of confusion, wondering why they chose to play hip-hop over the PA, the opening act Lucius took centre stage. It’s as though First Aid Kit and Arcade Fire decided to team up and steal the entire percussion section from their local music shop. Gentle, psychedelic guitars were interwoven with haunting harmonies and each member had extra drums and tambourines to add a little extra oomph when necessary. Clearly the music store heist was a good move as their songs had some great upbeat moments and didn’t get too dragged down with indie style meanderings.
Jack eventually took the stage, which was laid out in a suitably eccentric way with Theremins and Predicta TVs. He doesn’t make music so much as restrain chaos, and tonight he was on top form. His vocals and guitar solos were wild and frantic but without ever losing control. He blasted through the highlights of the latest album and some choice cuts from The White Stripes’ back catalogue. I had worried that all the extra instruments, all the violins, synths and steel guitars, would make the latter sound a bit convoluted but they effortlessly added to the songs and filled the out to make them sound brand new. All of Jack White’s previous bands have had him as the focal point, but strangely here on his solo tour he was surrounded by some excellent musicians who played together like a well oiled machine.
He certainly knew the right buttons to push to get his audience going. He mentioned how his next gig was in Scotland and said how the North should be next to try for independence. I think Northern pride added to the crowd’s exuberance, which was at full force during the snaking synths and thundering riff of ‘Icky Thump’ and the staccato bursts of ‘Steady As She Goes’. My only major criticism of the night is that the crowd was rather too manic for my liking, there were certainly times where I wished some of them would calm down and enjoy the music. After finally playing ‘Seven Nation Army’ to close the show I had two thoughts. The first was relief at not being trampled, the second was the fact that in the face of some criticism about his current musical direction, Jack White proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with. The only thing that’s missing from the glory days of The White Stripes is the colour red.