Jack White, Festival Hall, July 25
Walking into a venue to watch a rock concert really isn’t what it used to be. The security set-up at Festival Hall for Jack White’s solo debut felt more like going to visit a friend in prison. Every fan was patted down from their beard to their boots before being told to turn their phone off. Even facebook check-ins were strictly prohibited, according to the A3 print-out plastered across the entrance. But once the front-door bullshit was negotiated, it was all about one guy. And the crumbling concrete hall was packed tightly with people ready to hear just how loud he could get.
Jack slinked onto the stage with his all-girl backing band looking like one big happy polygamist cult family. Their long, white flowing dresses suggested a kind of innocence to the whole set-up as they sat at their instruments. Then the man in black hammered the first chord of ‘Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground’ out of his Telecaster, and for the next couple of hours the place didn’t stop shaking. There was nothing innocent about the band; these ladies had chops.
This was billed a Blunderbuss
show, but that didn’t stop Jack White from getting all Stripey and peppering the first set with classics like ‘Hotel Yorba’, ‘I’m Slowly Turning Into You’, and a blistering rendition of ‘Ball and Biscuit’. Even though there’s nothing incomplete about these songs in the recordings with Meg, hearing them played with the extra instrumentation of a five-piece lady-band, really transformed them into something else; something better. Raconteurs’ tunes ‘Top Yourself’ and ‘Steady As She Goes’ were dished out, just to be thorough. But when things got all honky tonkin’ with the Hank Williams cover ‘You Know That I know’ the beer and bathroom queues momentarily got a little longer.
The band encored like they had a point to prove, blasting through the latest single ‘Freedom at 21’ and White Stripes favorite ‘My Doorbell’. For a few minutes there Festy Hall transformed into a campfire sing-along as the punters found their voices, joining Jack for ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’. But we all knew how this had to end – aka big. Like ‘Seven Nation Army’ big. So when that that unmistakable guitar riff rang out, it felt right. We all nodded our silent appreciation, then loudly rocked out. And when the feedback finally faded and the house lights came on, nobody really cared that they were stepping into the pouring rain.
Jack White had planned to head to Cherry after his gig last night, but cancelled after a scare involving an avid fan. Read more here.