By Josh Hughes
The White Stripes played one of the biggest roles in my constantly shifting music taste. Before hearing “Seven Nation Army”, “Ball And Biscuit”, and “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise”, I was limited to my dad’s range of music, which included classics like Rush, The Doors, and Simon & Garfunkel. But my ten year old self had never heard anything like Jack White shredding on electric guitar while his ex-wife masked as sister played drums without really knowing what she was doing. They were my breaking point in music, in which afterwards I delved further and further into different styles of music. Some ten years after my first exposure, finally seeing Jack White in concert rightfully placed him back in my shortlist of music idols and icons. Over an all-talented band, he sped through White Stripes, Raconteurs, covers, and solo material with the gusto of someone who loves to play music for the sake of it.
White’s (or his management’s) decision to play at a large amount of college venues seems like a perfect fit for his mishmash of styles that transcend generations. Still, seeing him in a front pit at a venue in which I’ve also seen Vivaldi’s Four Seasons originally came across strange, but as the evening went on I realized really how fitting it was. A modern day concert is the nearest equivalent to Renaissance-era religious ceremonies, in which a gathering of people come together and get swept up in an otherworldly few hours, only to leave and return back to the real world. And not to come across as exaggeratory or disrespectful, but this concert was of religious proportions. I stood with my friends (our own Joe DeBonis and Tim Carlton-McQueen included), and we all nearly came to the same conclusion about Jack White as one of the most relevant and important music figures in our lives. The crowd, which ranged from lumberjack beard hipsters to fifty-something couples, all must’ve felt the same way; when someone came out to tell us not to take photos during the show, there was unanimous applause and not even the hint of a groan.
After an opening set of latin-prog by Chicano Batman (something you can just imagine White getting stoked about), his band swiftly came on as a literal curtain parted and they broke into the instrumental swagger of “High Ball Stepper”. Hair slicked back, covered in blue, this was not the same incarnation of White as the messy haired, black and red dressed twenty-five year old I originally knew. But as with each of his projects, the solo Jack White takes on a specific corner of his Detroit to Nashville style, and his Lazaretto incarnation centers on rhythmic, nearly rapped delivery, Americana via violin and slide guitar, and the usual array of guitar solos.
He played through some of my favorite White songs early on in the first set, churning out “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground”, “Lazaretto” and “That Black Bat Licorice” with much more clarity than The Dead Weather concert I’d previously been to (which was also the loudest show I’ve ever seen). The highlights of the set were a minute long tease of “Icky Thump”, tucked in between a White Stripes song I didn’t recognize, the dark balladry of “Love Interruption”, and the defining Jack White song, “Ball and Biscuit”. He barely talked in between songs, and sometimes they even drifted into each other, never allowing for any of the momentum to die away.
The encore, which really consisted of a full second set, started with the best moment of the whole show. Pulling the same curtain tactic, the band broke into Elephant highlight “Black Math”, scorching through the originally lo-fi song with a full on band. It was a strange feeling hearing all these songs written on guitar and with simple drum parts transformed into fully fleshed out rock songs with over twice the instrumentation, but it worked. He (somewhat obviously yet equally perfectly) ended the show with a throbbing rendition of one of the most revered rock songs of all time, “Seven Nation Army”. At this point I turned around to see the entire hall filled with everyone standing singing along, and then realized exactly how close up I was. From a different perspective it wouldn’t have been an intimate show at all, but up close in the pit, he gave off a completely different vibe. Even in full out idolized rockstar state, Jack White took himself humbly on stage. He introduced every member of his band by stating their name and where they came from, and even though everyone in the room knew it was nothing more and nothing less than a Jack White show, the importance of each player was heavily lodged in everyone’s brain. He ended by saying that he’d see us again, so here’s to hoping for another 20+ year career, a few greatest hits compilations, and more concerts at Popejoy.
By Joe DeBonis
Jack White has always been one of my biggest musical idols. Without the White Stripes, my listening path would never have developed the way it did. They played enough music that had similarities to what my dad had me listening to, but with enough new influences to make me realize I was missing out on a whole realm of music that was being released currently instead of during the 1970’s. I had seen White once before, with Dead Weather almost five years ago, but being the drummer of that band he was not in the lime light as much as I would have liked. So getting the chance to see him up close and personal was something I had only dreamed of. I had slowly started to lose hope on the prospect though, especially after he was announced as a headliner for Coachella, I figured he would never make it to Albuquerque and I would never make it to him. When the show was unexpectedly announced though, I immediately acted, stood in line for way too long to get tickets and made sure that nothing would stop me from seeing my idol.
Chicano Batman was who was chosen to open for White, a choice I was surprised about but nonetheless pleased with as they played a version of surf rock focused more on Spanish vocals than anything else. There was a true psych rock vibe to the band, and they clearly were excited to be playing for so many people even though Jack White himself would be playing for almost a ninth of the crowd he had just played for only nights before at Madison Square Garden. They got the crowd going though, and by the time they left the stage, Popejoy had filled up and was ready for Jack White to consume our minds.
He came on with a true fervor, playing something off of his new album that I was regretfully unfamiliar with. That didn’t matter though because he was playing the hell out of his guitar, and his blistering licks were enough to make me start to realize one of my all time favorite guitar players was only feet away from me. Then the White Stripes songs came and “Cannon” and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” made me more than thankful I had made the decision to come. Those were songs I had been listening to for seven or eight years, and I realized it was a rare day that I got to hear my young, middle school music live in front of me.
It didn’t stop there and White didn’t slow down; not one bit. He blasted through about an hours worth of material in what felt like 20 minutes. He hit a lot off his new album but also did some off of his first solo album and other Stripes songs and to end his first set he did an incredible version of “Ball and Biscuit,” reminding me he is one of the best blues guitarist of our time. Once that song ended and he had the curtain close, I knew he was no where near being done, even if the crowd around me seemed a bit worried they were going to have to go home without hearing “Seven Nation Army.” Just as I expected, he came back out, but what I wasn’t expecting was hearing “Black Math,” maybe one of the most raucous Stripes songs in their catalogue. It was the closest me, Bryce and Josh got to moshing that night and it was such a surprise to me, it may have been my favorite moment.
The second set flew by even faster than the first and by the time “Seven Nation Army” started, I was drenched in sweat but quite ready to go for another two hours. There were still so many songs I wanted to hear. I knew though that I had to be satisfied with the songs I had heard and more importantly with the idol I had finally witnessed doing what he was born to do: play the guitar better than anyone I have ever seen live. Of course he would end with the White Stripes anthem, but it still was special to hear it live and to scream the well worn lyrics back at the man who probably changed my musical listening life the most.
The setlist from the night can be found here.