A White Stripe, a Raconteur, a quarter of The Dead Weather, and a name in his own right; we’ve spent twenty years watching little Jackie White grow up… and he’s still a child at heart.
His songs are full of childhood experience, but it isn’t a childhood which is looked back on with disdain or embarrassment; in fact, it’s not being contextualised at all. It is childhood from the perspective of the child; the point where your first love wasn’t a spotty, awkward impression of love, but the purest and most energised thing you’d ever felt. Jack White has embodied that feeling throughout his career and he does it better than anybody else.
His three intimate and sweaty nights at the Hammersmith Apollo – as opposed to, say, one night at the O2 – signals that he also puts his fan’s experience before his own diary. Not convinced? Well how about the fact that the photo at the top of this blog was the only one I got all night. The whole crowd were forced to surrender devices at the door, to be placed in Yondr cases. Aside from spending the following twenty minutes realising how often I move my right hand to my pocket for no real reason, I have to say I didn’t really miss my phone… Turns out I can remember an experience without those customary, pixelated reminders.
No longer playing in a two-piece (ensemble – he didn’t get naked), White directs a supporting cast of five from his central position. On top of this, he has a range of guitars on-stage (often switched mid-song), an extra piano and an extra drum-kit, just in case he feels like changing it up even more. A guitar issue during ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’? No bother. How about an impromptu and revitalised piano version instead? On ‘My Doorbell’, White doubles up on drums, with both synth players adding further percussion to the bass and piano accompaniment, providing an undeniable groove for one of the evening’s standout performances.
At one point, I saw a guy filming a video or two on something he had snuck in. I really hoped the show would stop and we’d all superciliously chant “Judas!” from our new-found, old-fashioned standpoint but, alas, no such luck…
This is a different Jack White to the one I saw in San Francisco four years ago. I’m glad to see he’s jacked in the fiddle, and despite any worries I had about some of the new sounds on 2018’s Boarding House Reach, even the opinion-splitting ‘Ice Station Zebra’ sounded gargantuan live. Imagine everything with overdrive and shouted an octave higher and you’ll be much nearer to the truth. I’d love to share a video, but the fucker took my phone. (Just kidding, here’s a version from March.)
Songs like ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’ (“Look at all the bugs we found. Safely walk to school without a sound.”) sit comfortably alongside 2018’s ‘Corporation’ (“I’m thinking about starting a corporation, who’s with me?!”). As well as including rarer cuts such as ‘Do’ (a tour debut), White gives the crowd the hits from all of his projects: ‘Steady As She Goes’, ‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’, and… of course… ‘Seven Nation Army’.
Closing the night, White encourages the crowd to chant the riff like we’re at the World Cup. Strangling every last breath from his guitar’s neck during the solo and accentuating key vocal lines with his signature shriek, there’s no sign of Cobain-esque resentment or rejection of the track’s adoration. He doesn’t have to take rock ‘n’ roll too seriously; that childlike enthusiasm which first endeared him to fans twenty years ago is still within him.