Jeffry Konczal photo
Five quick thoughts on last night's Jack White concert at LC Pavilion:
(1) The man was born to rock. His other pastimes are well and good, and I'm sure they contribute to the mystique that was so evident Monday, but White should focus most of his time on sonic detonation in front of adoring fans. Hobbies like running a boutique record label, publicity stunts like releasing an album in a balloon and even producing other people's albums should go on the backburner, lest White skimp on his true calling. Some folks accuse him of being a charlatan or a cartoon version of a real garage rocker, but this was nasty. Only the slightest tinges of gentrification were evident in White's onslaught.
(2) There was a significant drop-off when White traded his electric guitar for an acoustic. His sonic identity is rooted in so many overlapping old-timey genres that it would be futile and counterproductive to expect him to rein in his palette. And yeah, last night's bluegrassy version of "Hotel Yorba" was nice, particularly the mandolin(!) solo. But still, there was so much power coursing through that crowd when White was wielding his array of electric guitars, whether violently hurling chunks of distortion or wrangling solos doused in all manner of effects.
(3) Speaking of "Hotel Yorba," I'm glad White decided to play music from all his projects rather than limit last night's set to the solid but not classic "Blunderbuss" and fill in the gaps with, I don't know, covers of obscure country blues singles. Shows by The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather are fun, but they've always felt lacking and limited due to the knowledge that White has so many great songs dispersed across the various identities in his discography. Putting on a show under his own name meant he could freely pluck from wherever he pleased, which meant "Steady As She Goes" followed by "Hello Operator" come encore time. That's badass.
(4) That said, many of the best moments last night came when White seemed to be following his muse into some schizoid garage blues jam session. His band (the male lineup, not the all-female unit that appeared at Lollapalooza) was more than capable of keeping up. This is essentially what he did with The White Stripes, but it's kind of amazing to hear an entire ensemble bobbing, weaving and stopping on dimes at White's whim rather than Meg kinda sorta doing it. It reminded me once again that I don't hate jamming per se, just aimless, toothless hippie nonsense. Whether flaunting a harmonica, organ, pedal steel or thunderous drumming reminiscent of White's Detroit brethren The Dirtbombs, every musician on stage brought something special to the table. It was somewhat disorienting, however, to hear a violin in the mix from time to time, lending rural flavor to some numbers while rendering White's louder moments practically Trans-Siberian.
(5) White closed out his encore with "Seven Nation Army," which was already The White Stripes' signature single before it became an anthem in every sports arena nationwide. White seemed to embrace the song's jock jam metamorphosis, urging the audience to chant along with the song's melody like you would at the 'Shoe or Crew Stadium. (It's worth noting that the loudest singalong prior to this was on "We're Going To Be Friends," so maybe Columbus is twee?) Still, White didn't exactly play it straight; his skuzzed-out, combustible slide guitar performance was among the most glorious thrills on a night with plenty to choose from.