There are concerts you go to because you’re hoping the live show transcends the recorded material. There are concerts you go to because you want to see a band or artist of significant importance play live, just once. And once in a while, you see a concert that delivers both. Once in a while…like when Jack White schedules two nights at the Sony Centre.
We had an insanely busy week leading up to the concert (the second of the two) so I didn’t even know who was opening. Turns out it was a band called Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three, an entertaining little contraption of a band that impressed mostly via their rock star harmonica player and enthusiastic old-timey image. They dutifully played their set, got the energy level up, and were on their way. Then the roadies — all dressed in zoot-suit-ish garb — reset the stage.
When Jack himself took the stage, he did so with his all-male band. I was sad to miss his all-female band, who had played the previous night, but my disappointment was short lived. The band ripped into a 5-song sequence with no break, and this band let it all fly. The drummer and keyboardist especially; both were large, muscular guys who played the hell out of their instruments, contrasted against the waifish White. I found it hard to take my eyes off of them, especially as they were positioned at the front of the stage, framing White as he lurched about. The only difficulty I had was seeing through the 6-6 Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo looking jagoff in front of me who kept swaying and dancing and then hugging his girlfriend every time she recognized a song. For once I knew what it felt like for Nellie to go to shows and not be able to see anything but the back (and iPhone screen) of the person in front of her.
The set was seventeen songs long, plus four in the encore: eight of his songs from Blunderbuss, eight White Stripes songs, two Raconteurs, two Dead Weather, and one collaboration/feature Jack White did with Danger Mouse. The set list didn’t seem to stray too far from the previous night; I would have liked to hear “John The Revelator” and “Hotel Yorba” but I was happy that he ended the main set with “Ball And A Biscuit” on the second night too, as it’s probably my favourite White Stripes song. It was a crushing version of it too; playing with a powerful backing band just gives the songs a lot more depth.
The range of styles White pulled out that night, the breadth of the bands and side projects, the tightness of the band, the art integrated with the show, the monumental musicianship…it all paid tribute to Jack White being one of the most influential and meaningful artists playing today. It was a fun two hours, but ten years from now it’ll feel momentous.