As I quickly found my seat upon arriving at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, the sold-out crowd was just getting settled. People were milling about, talking with friends, sending snapchats, reclining in chairs and casually sipping drinks — at least until the show’s announcer popped through the large curtain surrounding the entirety of the stage.
“You won’t be needing those seats tonight. This is a rock n’ roll show — not a poetry reading,” the man said to the packed crowd before addressing his next issue. “This show should not be viewed through a three inch screen. We put photos up online for free after the show.”
This is not the first time I’ve heard bands and artists make requests for people to put away their phones and simply focus on enjoying the show. While many still do whatever they please, I hope this is a trend that stays.
The six-member band took the stage shortly thereafter. Alongside White was his band of highly-skilled musicians, comprised of bassist Dominic Davis, drummer Daru Jones, Fats Kaplin who plays a little of everything from pedal steel guitar to mandolin and even the UFO-like theremin, pianist Ikey Owens and background signer and fiddler Lillie Mae Rische. Cory Younts, who is also a current member of the band, was not present for this performance.
The band opened with the classic White Stripes track, “Fell In Love With A Girl,” and the rock concert was quickly underway, with not a single member of the audience sitting down anymore.
The career-spanning setlist for the night was a heavily mixed blend of White Stripes, the Raconteurs (Steady, As She Goes) and solo albums, such as Blunderbuss or the amazing Lazaretto. While fans may not have gotten to hear all of their White Stripes’ favorites, such as “Seven Nation Army,” I think White really wants to distance himself from his past. His relationship with Meg White (the other half of The White Stripes) has always been a topic of discussion in his career, and in the song, “Would You Fight for My Love?” you can tell he still has a bit of a soft spot for her. “It’s not enough that I love you / there’s all these things I have to prove to you.” So it’s not really surprising that he favored his solo albums and side projects, though “Ball & Biscuit” was much appreciated.
Perhaps the best song of the night came after White and the band briefly left the stage for a few minutes and returned with the classic, “Icky Thump.” As if the song alone isn’t enough to melt your face off, White seamlessly blended in Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” receiving a tremendous roar from the crowd before diving right back into “Icky Thump” again. This was an especially nice treat, seeing as how he’s never done that before on tour — at least as far as I can tell. I even think there was a Dick Dale song in there somewhere.
At one point during the night, White took a few moments to address another issue — “ranting.” When White recently caught flak for talking to his fans during a show in Boston about the Foo Fighters and Rolling Stone, the internet quickly picked up the story, calling it a, “Kanye West-esque rant.” “Apparently musicians aren’t allowed to talk to their fans during shows anymore,” White said. He continued saying that fans now only expect artists to perform their songs, and then promptly get off stage. “How’s the weather Jacksonville?” White said with a laugh before apologizing for “ranting about the weather.”
Whether or not you think Jack White is a “weird guy” is beside the point. If you found yourself distracted by his haircut, then you probably weren’t paying attention to the more important aspects of the concert — like the music. As one of the greatest performers of our time, White brings a presence to the stage that is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long, long time. Rock n’ roll is not dead, and it’s guys like Jack White that keep it that way.