Jack White. Red Rocks. 08.08.12

Taking the stage draped in darkness, Jack White’s elongated shadow could have easily been mistaken for that of an eccentric from another generation. Like Tom Waits, Jack White is all about creating the best possible audience experience — even going as far as trying to ban the use of camera phones throughout the performance. The white sheet, on which reflected Mr. White and his ostentation of Peacocks, was soon removed in order to expose the natural rock backdrop — a backdrop that no artificial stage props should ever conceal. Aside from some blue lighting and his trademark ‘III’ hanging from above, the visual aspects of the night were subtle, unless you count having an all female band (dressed in all white dresses) a visual enhancement. But to talk about The Peacocks in terms of gender or dress would be to take away from how good they were. In fact, their performance provided a texture and richness that The White Stripes were never able to create in a live setting.

For those who were hoping White would be performing material from the band that made him famous were immediately satisfied with the opening chords of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”. The transition from that garage rock classic into the bluesy Blunderbuss material, right back into “Hotel Yorba”, and then on to “Top Yourself” from The Raconteurs, was enough to make your head spin. It also set the premise for what the evening would be about — Jack White solidifying himself as one of the true musical legends of his generation. Whatever band he is in (or not in) does not define Jack White. He is one of the best guitarists and songwriters working today. Whether he wants to perform as The White Stripes, The Dead Weather or Jack White with The Peacocks (or Los Buzzardos), it really doesn’t matter.

Just to set the doubters straight, I should confess that back in April, when I bought the tickets to this show, I was not the biggest Jack White fan. I absolutely respected him as an artist, and I was sure he’d put on a good show, but my interest didn’t go much beyond that. It took a couple months with Blunderbuss before I realized how good he had become over the years. Sparked by that solo album, I started listening to his work with other bands and I gradually became a big fan. So when I glanced at Facebook just in time to see the announcement for the secret show at Isdajo Automotive, I was there within 10 minutes. The short set at that auto garage was the final spark to kick my excitement into overload. That secret show left me with big expectations for Red Rocks…and those expectations were met and exceeded.

I saw The White Stripes in 2003, just months after the release of their defining album, Elephant, and I can honestly say it paled in comparison to what we witnessed on the Rocks last night. The White Stripes made a lot of noise for a duo, but they couldn’t compete with a violin, cello, steel pedal, piano and backup singers. Not to mention Jack White has grown into a much better artist over the past 9 years. But that’s not to say he’s become more engaging with the crowd. There wasn’t a lot of stage banter throughout the night, with White only speaking when he had something funny “…have to keep telling my lungs to breath” or introspective “…you’re going to go home and The Peacocks and I are going drive through the desert all night…” to say. He used his speaking voice sparingly, as if saving every ounce of it for his lyrics. So when he left the stage at 10:45pm after “Ball and Biscuit”, it was hard to believe nearly an hour and a half had gone by…but it all reality, things were far from over.

Half expecting Los Buzzardos (the all male band who is also on tour with him) for the encore, I wasn’t disappointed when The Peacocks retook the stage minutes after leaving. Nobody was going to leave without hearing “Seven Nation Army”, but a six song encore that included not only that, but also (one of my favorites) “The Hardest Button to Button”, “Steady, As She Goes” and “Sixteen Saltines”, was more than anyone could have hoped for. Whether you’re a fan of the new, the old, or the in-between, you were not disappointed as the night closed with a cover of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene”…an appropriate send off before we made our way home and Jack made his way across the desert.

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Missing Pieces
Love Interruption
Hotel Yorba
Top Yourself
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Cannon/John the Revelator
Fell In Love With a Girl
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
Take Me With You When You Go
I’m Slowly Turning Into You
We’re Going to Be Friends
Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
Broken Boy Soldier
Blue Blood Blues
Ball and Biscuit

Sixteen Saltines
Freedom At 21
The Hardest Button to Button
Steady, As She Goes
Seven Nation Army
Goodnight, Irene