By Christopher David,
While Lollapalooza was across town offering its varying degrees of pop, hip-hop and rock to a crowd that could fill a small city, the Metro played host to one of the greatest musical forces of nature in contemporary music in advance of Jack White’s headlining Lolla slot on Sunday.
Hitting the stage to a savagely raucous version of “Over and Over and Over” from his brilliant new album Boarding House Reach, musician, label-runner, and general raconteur White delivered two hours of rock n’ roll catharsis in a setlist that spanned his various projects from earliest days of The White Stripes to his most recent work.
White’s work ethic is exhausting for most of us to even consider, and after having bounced back and forth with two different backing bands in 2012 (one all male and one all female), and then honing that into an all-star lineup featuring violinist Lillie Mae for 2014’s Lazaretto tour, he’s finally arrived at arguably his best lineup to date. Drummer Carla Azar—surely one of the most underrated powerhouse drummers on earth, though not for long after this stint—bassist Dominic Davis, and keyboardists Neal Evans and Quincy McCrary provide the perfect accompaniment to both classic White Stripes and Raconteurs’ tunes as well as rounding out the more experimental sound of Boarding House Reach.
Straight-forward rockers like the Stripes’ classic “Hotel Yorba” (reimagined as a full-on, bluegrass style number) and “The Hardest Button to Button” benefited from a looser arrangement that included piano and dynamic fluctuations from Azar and Davis, and “Blunderbuss,” the title track from White’s 2012 solo debut, went the opposite direction, its studio delicacy traded for crashing guitar chords that called to mind the White Stripes’ live cover of Bob Dylan’s “Isis” that used to occasionally appear way back in the early 2000s.
The looser, more spontaneous approach to recording that led to White’s new album was in top form on “Respect Commander,” which thumps and blips its way through a mix of electronic beats and actual drums before breaking down into a sultry, grungy blues that’s long been White’s signature, and the fuzzy, octave-shifted vocals of The Dead Weather’s “I Cut Like A Buffalo” ratcheted that same fuzzy crunch to a point of frenzy.
“Today was one of the best days of my life,” he said with a grin at one point, holding aloft a giant number 3 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard, a souvenir from Tom Ricketts himself earlier in the day on the back of an Anthony Rizzo homer. “Look at this! Are you fucking kidding me?” The crowd roared with approval at his display of bold-faced fandom, and by the time “Connected by Love” hit and turned the Metro into a stadium worthy singalong, one had a full view of White’s ability to seamlessly blend roots blues with everything that made rock n’ roll and early soul music wicked and sexy. It’s the kind of thing that’s either in your blood or it’s not – and fortunately, Jack White has enough for all of us.
– No photos were allowed at this show. Not even cell phones. Sorry –
Setlist: Jack White – Metro, Chicago, IL, August 4, 2018