I don’t care what people actually say about wanting to be pilots or archeologists, or doctors or lawyers. Deep down, everyone wants to grow up to be a Rock Star. And deep down plenty of people grow up and, like me, still wish they were a Rock Star. If you don’t believe me go and have a look at the sales figures for Guitar Hero (1 to 57) and the demographics of who are playing it.
Unfortunately very few of us actually get to do it and maybe this is the reason why we all worship the ones who make it. As Paul Simon once sang, ‘every generation throws a hero up the pop charts’ and it is true that almost every decade someone rises above the masses and asks that eternal question; Are you ready to Rock?
It’s hard to say exactly where it all started but it is easy to say who first personified it – the King. Elvis took being a Rock Star to a whole new level. Over the following decades we had the Beatles and the Stones, followed by Zeppelin and the Clash. The 80’s were tough for rock but you still had AC/DC and Guns n’ Roses. Then there was of course Nirvana and Pearl Jam. But who has been our Rock God over the past decade?
I will put my vote forward as the unimpeachable Mr. Jack White.
Jack ticks all of the boxes:
- Hugely successful and critically acclaimed rock band? The White Stripes: tick.
- ‘Classic’ status song that will be played for years to come? Seven Nation Army: tick.
- Side projects that regular rock stars could only dream of having? The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather: tick.
- Collaborations with other great artists? Beck, The Rolling Stones, Alicia Keys and Bob Dylan: tick.
- Gifted multi-instrumentalists with eccentric tendencies: tick
- The public’s perception of him is part fact, part fiction and part mythology: tick, tick and tick.
With this kind of prominence in the Rock World, or at least in my own mind, it would be an understatement to say that I had high expectations for my first Jack White solo show. The White Stripes remain the only band I have ever made the effort to go and see on back to back nights and I bought the Jack White solo album (Blunderbuss) within days of its release.
It took about 5 seconds of the show to know I was not going to be disappointed!
The night had already started well, with the support band First Aid Kit putting on a great opening set. Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg are well worth checking out, with beautiful harmonies and nicely written folk-pop songs. From afar Klara (guitar), also bears a remarkable resemblance to my wife, which only added to the entertainment.
Jack is touring his solo shows with two bands – the all male, Los Buzzardos and the all female, The Peacocks. He had decided he was in the mood for The Peacocks tonight, so the show began with 6 lovely ladies in white dresses drifting on stage followed by Jack – suited up and ready to rock. They launched straight into Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground and the whole crowd went crazy. It didn’t take the Dutchies long to find their voices and by the third verse you could hear the whole crowd scream ‘If you can hear a piano fall, you can hear me coming down the hall’ – one of my all time favorite White Stripes lines.
I had been completely taken aback with a White Stripes song to kick off the show, but it would be a sign of what to expect for the rest of the evening with Jack taking songs from all of his different bands plus his solo work. About 7 of the 19 songs on the setlist were off the new solo album and they held up really well against his older hits. This was probably helped by the fact they were written with the current band in mind, as opposed to some of the other songs which had seen pretty big changes to their composition to suit the new line-up. Love Interruption and Freedom and 21 were particularly good live.
The updated arrangements included the White Stripes classics Hotel Yorba, We’re Going to be Friends and Ball and a Biscuit. He also pulled off cracking versions of The Raconteurs Steady as She Goes and Carolina Drama as well as the Dead Weather’s Blue Blood Blues.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the fans then got the bonus prize deep into the encore with a fantastic version of Seven Nation Army, played with the full band and Jack on a heavily amplified acoustic guitar which gave it quite a different sound to the traditional White Stripes version. They closed out the set with a cover of Leadbelly’s Goodnight Irene, which was nice but didn’t get the fanatical response Seven Nation Army had the song before.
Picking the rise and fall of a band is about as hard as picking a good stock to invest in, but if I had to make a call I would say Jack is at the top of the game right now. He has a back catalog of hit songs that most people could only dream of and his new solo album is really good; both live and the recorded version.
A sample of the punters around us was also a testament to his Rock Star status. Within two arms lengths we had your middle age male rock lovers, two screaming teenage girls and a couple in their 20’s who had driven up all the way from Belgium just to see his show.
These titles are always a little contentious but everything I saw from Jack tonight only added to the impression I already had – Jack White is the currently biggest Rock Star on the planet and he is the rightful title holder of Rock Star of the Decade.
Heineken Music Hall, 25 June 2012
All photos courtesy of Jo McCaughey @ jackwhiteiii.com (as we were so politely asked to refrain from taking photos ourself and to download the official ones). She also has a pretty cool website if your interested - HERE