Jack White Defangs WaMu Theater in Seattle, Washington
Jack White performed at the WaMu Theater in Seattle, Washington last Tuesday and debuted his new solo venture.
I’ve seen Jack White perform every year since 2005, with the exception of 2007 when the White Stripes canceled their Fargo, North Dakota show. It also has been since 2005 that I have heard him perform any songs from The White Stripes.
The WaMu is a large building with little character, meant for home shows and boat expositions. The seating was all general admission with some bleachers set up in the back for those who didn’t want to stand. The entire venue was full to capacity with barely room to breathe.
My wife and I arrived at the venue about three hours prior to the doors opening, thinking we would park nearby, check out how long the line was, and grab some dinner before the concert. Unfortunately the line was already stretching half a block long, so we had to enter the fray and wait in the sun. It was a long wait, with fans from far flung places like Alberta, Canada to Utah waiting to get in.
Waiting in a line for hours takes an endurance that I am beginning to not have like I once did when I was younger. After learning about lines extensively last summer in New York, I now realize that what begins as orderly and single file eventually becomes a mad dash.
Not since grade school have I been told to “walk” while entering somewhere, but that was the first thing I heard when I went into the WaMu. My wife and I made a plan that she would go and grab a show poster while I would find us a spot up front. By the time I got to the stage the center was filled about 10 rows deep, but like always the sides were still open directly in front of the speakers. I moved slightly to the right of the speakers, more toward the center, behind a few shorter girls.
The opening band Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three out of Saint Louis was upbeat and honky-tonk. They looked and sounded like they came straight out of the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and were an upgrade from most opening bands I have seen over the years. They involved the crowd often in their music and had great stage presence. The lead singer looked a little like Jimmy Stewart but sounded like Woody Guthrie.
Jack White came out at about 9:15pm and had an all female band, The Peacocks, backing him. There was steel guitar, organ, bass, drums, and a great back-up singer. The only issue I had was that the sound was so loud that my hair blew back and my ears hurt just a few songs in. Eventually I was given some toilet paper to put in my ears, but I think there might be some damage from this one.
White came out swinging with “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground”, a White Stripes staple. The crowd erupted with screams and cheers that sounded like a release of years of angst and waiting. It was mesmerizing hearing and seeing this great song live, but with a slight Nashville twang from the backing band.
For those of you who may not know Jack White, you are missing out. He did the opening song for Napolean Dynamite “We’re Gonna Be Friends”, “Seven Nation Army”, “Hotel Yorba”, and many other songs while with his “sister” Meg in The White Stripes. All of those songs were performed at the Seattle show along with many others.
Around 2006 White formed a group named The Raconteurs and had hits like “Steady As She Goes” and “Top Yourself” (also performed at the show). In 2009 White formed rock super group The Dead Weather in which he played drums. He performed their song “Blue Blood Blues” as well in the performance.
Last summer while my wife and I were in New York, Jack White appeared with Stephen Colbert for an impromptu performance near High Line Park. When I got a chance to speak with him I asked when he was going solo and he explained that he was solo that day. It was the start of something grossly overdue.
In April of this year, Jack White released his debut solo album “Blunderbuss” and it shot to #1 on music charts across the globe. When he performed on Saturday Night Live in support of the release, he performed with an all female band (The Peacocks) for the first song and an all male band (The Buzzards) for the next one. In Seattle he had the all female band, but at other shows he has used the all male one. Luckily we attended his show in Portland the next night, giving us an opportunity to see both bands. I’ll save that review for next week, and explain how White did a “B-Show” at a Portland laundromat.
It is a great thing that we have someone who keeps the torch of rock and roll lit, and White has a fire that cannot be extinguished. He does throwback concert posters in limited runs, has the top selling vinyl album every time he releases something, and even has an old van that follows him to his shows called a Rolling Record Store. The prized possession among fans is a copy of “Blunderbuss” on vinyl with a blue lightning bolt on it. They only bring 20 to each show so getting one is difficult to say the least.
On stage White is in control of all aspects of his sound. He flies from one instrument to the next and often seems nervous if he has to talk to the crowd. When he took a break midway through his show it took some of the whole obligatory encore format out of the show. When he left the stage the crowd began chanting, “ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh” to the tune from “Seven Nation Army”. It lasted for a long time while the band was off the stage.
After the encore White performed his two solo hits, “Sixteen Saltines” and “Freedom at 21”. He ended the show with “Seven Nation Army” and Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene”. It was a magical, loud, and much overdue night.