It’s pelting down and Jack White says he feels our pain. Or, at least, our dampness. “I’m here in the rain, singing with you,” he says. “I’m getting wet with you.” It’s an agreeable piece of shtick from a schticky musician. A latter-day bluesman with an unlikely background as a Detroit upholstery apprentice, White has parlayed his obsession with the past into a surprisingly resilient career. As the singing, guitar-playing half of The White Stripes, he raised indie minimalism to an art-form, with songs so stripped down they almost weren’t there (the best of these, ‘Seven Nation Army’, has became a football terrace anthem).
Since the White Stripes drifted apart — the break-up was confirmed in 2011 — he’s cycled through side-projects, some inspired, others forgettable, before arriving at his present solo career. For White Stripes fans, his two stand-alone LPs have a whiff of a second coming: they contain all of his signature tics and tropes, only with slightly better drumming (he had utilised ex-wife, Meg, in the White Stripes because of her ‘childlike’ technique).
He has a reputation for on-stage hissy fits, last year berating a crowed at New York’s Radio City Music Hall for not being sufficiently moved by his music. But he’s in a generous frame of mind tonight, moving between new compositions, such as ‘High Ball Stepper’ and ‘Lazaretto’ (the title track from his latest LP), and White Stripes staples ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’ (appropriate in view of the conditions), ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ (including a segue into Beck’s ‘Loser’) and ‘Seven Nation Army’.
The highlight is at the end, as White and Alison Mosshart, from support band the Kills (a long-time White associate), duet on Leadbelly’s ‘Goodnight Irene’. It’s 10.45pm and White was due off at 10.30, so somebody backstage cuts the power. Unbowed, he leads the audience through an unplugged singalong. Hairs stand up on the back of your neck, even as rivulets of rainwater make their way down.
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