By Michel Dussack
Itâ€™s a testament to Jack Whiteâ€™s popularity that when I arrived at New York Cityâ€™s Roseland Ballroom 40 minutes before the doors were scheduled to open, the line of people waiting to get inside went up 52nd street, wrapped around the corner, and then proceeded to wrap around another corner onto 53rd street. By the time the doors opened (3o minutes before the time printed on the tickets) the line was several hundred strong, all of whom were slightly damp from the day-long rainstorm that soaked the city. This was the first of two sold out shows at the legendary venue and as fans trickled in past the large signs prohibiting photographing, videotaping and audio recording the performance there were many questions in the air. The most important of which, however, was which band Jack White would be performing with that night. White has brought two bands on tour with him â€“ the all-male Los Buzzardos and the all-female The Peacocks, and no one is told who will be playing until the band walk on stage.
The 90 minute set (which flew by all too quickly) encompassed material from every project White has had his hands in â€“ from The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs to the Danger Mouse/Daniele Luppi project Rome. On main focus throughout the night, though, were songs from his critically acclaimed solo album â€˜Blunderbussâ€™ and choice cuts from the extensive White Stripes catalogue. Opening the show with one of The White Stripesâ€™ biggest hits, â€˜Dead Leaves and the Dirty Groundâ€™ set the bar high for the night and provided a chance for Los Buzzardos to show off their talent early on. Every song was given more of a country twang thanks in part to fiddles and slide guitars throughout, yet Whiteâ€™s guitar prowess was still the main attraction. Of particular note was drummer Daru Jones, who is one of the fiercest drummers Iâ€™ve ever seen. During some of his more energetic moments, he lifted out of his chair from his sheer momentum and resorted to drumming standing up.
Another interesting aspect of the performance was that there seemed to be no paper setlists on the stage for band members to refer to. Instead, it seemed that White would call out what song to play next to his band mates and often added improvisational guitar solos at a whim, forcing the band to attempt to keep up with one of the best guitarists in the business.
Every song from â€˜Blunderbussâ€™ was somehow made heavier in their live performances, especially tracks like â€˜Sixteen Saltinesâ€™ and â€˜Freedom at 21â€™. A cover of Hank Williamsâ€™ â€˜You Know That I Knowâ€™ was slipped into the set towards the end with White jokingly asking if New York could â€˜handle a country songâ€™. Aside from a quick story told by White (which was nearly impossible to understand from the back of the venue) this was all the talking the audience got from him. Highlights of the night included a set closing â€˜Ball and Biscuitâ€™, a tweaked version of â€˜Steady, As She Goesâ€™ and the fan favorite â€˜Hello Operatorâ€™.
The singular highlight of the show for most of the crowd was indeed the show closing â€˜Seven Nation Armyâ€™ and from the first note of what is possibly the last greatest guitar riff they were singing along with it. The crowd grew so loud in fact, that White silenced his band during the last verse and sung while the crowd continued singing the guitar riff and clapping the drum beat. And just like that, White thanked the crowd for coming out, and vanished off the stage for the night. Everyone in the venue filed out with a gigantic smile on their face, having just seen what is arguably this generationâ€™s greatest guitarist play the most memorable guitar riff of the past 15 years.
Jack White setlist
1. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (White Stripes)
2. Missing Pieces
3. Sixteen Saltines
4. Hypocritical Kiss
5. I Cut Like A Buffalo (The Dead Weather)
6. Trash Tongue Talker
7. Top Yourself (The Raconteurs)
8. Two Against One (Rome)
9. Black Math (White Stripes)
10. Hello Operator (White Stripes)
11. Weep Themselves to Sleep
12. You Know That I Know (Hank Williams cover)
14. Ball and Biscuit (White Stripes)
15. Freedom At 21
16. Steady, As She Goes (The Raconteurs)
17. Take Me With You When You Go
18. Catch Hell Blues (White Stripes)
19. Seven Nation Army (White Stripes)
All photos courtesy of Michel Dussack