Tuesday, August 14th
Jack White is a man of many talents, a modern renaissance man of the highest order.>"/>
Jack White is a man of many talents, a modern renaissance man of the highest order. Throughout his career, he's always trying his hand at something new, be it acting, record producing, or running a label. He's also written songs for four very different bands-- The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and now his solo record, Blunderbuss. He excels at everything (well, maybe not acting). With such a diverse career, and the ability to draw songs from any period on this solo tour, Seattle was undoubtedly curious how he would approach curating a setlist and arranging songs with his new band. As it turns out, last night, the many faces of Jack White turned into one-- the more is more version.
Opening with "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," White and the Peacocks (that's the all-female version of his backing band) showed that a song previously just drums, guitar, and voice could sustain piano, bass, pedal steel, violin, and a soulful backup singer. Then came three songs from Blunderbuss including "Love Interruption." "Hotel Yorba" was next-- unfortunately, a simple country song like itself couldn't hold up under the Grand Ole Opry treatment. Living in Nashville for so long has apparently rubbed off on White-- the setup was the variety show version of his career, all string arrangements and ladies in sparkly tops. The instrumentation was lavish, and everyone played at full intensity at all times, conquering the echoing concrete barn of WaMu with sheer force of will. But after six or seven songs, the downbeat felt like an anvil dropped on your head, while the soulful backup vocals reminded more of Joss Stone's "Fell In Love With a Girl" cover than "Music City" chic.
Things continued on this way-- a White Stripes song, a Raconteurs song, something from Blunderbuss, a Dead Weather song. It's pretty incredible that the man's written so many great songs, he can draw from any point in his career, play a two-hour set, and not even touch some of his best. He hardly spoke, instead letting his guitar do the talking. But the impression was of a gentler man from days past-- he invited the audience to sing along with him and cracked a joke about opener Pokey LaFarge, saying "he's the kinda guy I wish owed me money, but he doesn't."
White's biggest talent after playing guitar may be creating an aura of mystique around everything he does, building a tasteful layer of myth and sacred practices to dazzle his fans and keep them guessing about the "real" Jack. It probably keeps him entertained as well. Touches of the Jack White mythology appeared onstage-- since he's designated blue as the color for his solo project, nary a red, yellow, or green light touched the stage. The backdrop was a giant Roman numeral "III," while the lighting rigs had three lights each and the spotlights three bulbs.
Closing the main set with "The Same Boy You've Always Known" and "The Hardest Button to Button," White dipped into his classic White Stripes catalog. After an interminable-seeming wait, during which a bunch of dudes valiantly sang the "Seven Nation Army" riff, the band came back for what turned out to be something more than your usual encore. Stretching ten songs deep, it was almost as long as the set. It was here that White really loosened up, joking "Let's start the show" as he sat at the piano for "Suzy Lee," the twenty-first song of the night, and indulging in extended solos and improvisations. The encore was also packed with hits-- "Sixteen Saltines," "Steady, As She Goes," "We're Going to Be Friends," "Ball and Biscuit," and "Seven Nation Army" all made appearances. At one point, it almost seemed he would dip into a medley, which would not have surprised given the "revue" feel of the show. But he avoided that cheesy pitfall, instead ending the night with a touching singalong to the classic "Goodnight, Irene," a song first recorded by Leadbelly in 1933. It was a fitting end from a man who's always paid tribute to those who came before.
Setlist (via Setlist.fm)
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Blue Blood Blues
I'm Slowly Turning Into You
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
The Same Boy You've Always Known
The Hardest Button to Button
Freedom At 21
Steady, As She Goes
We're Gonna Be Friends
Take Me With You When You Go
Ball and Biscuit
Suzy Lee / Seven Nation Army