NASH REVIEWS: JACK WHITE AT THE GARAGE, LONDON

A DEVOTED JACK WHITE FAN, NASH JUMPED AT THE CHANCE TO ATTEND AN INTIMATE LONDON GIG IN SUPPORT OF THE ICONIC MUSICIAN'S NEW ALBUM. HERE HE SHARES HIS PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE NIGHT...

In the early 2000s, a visit by any decent European or American rock band to Moscow was considered a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers rocked the Red Square, and there were a couple of Prodigy and Metallica concerts - but none of it was of much interest to me and my friends at the time. A concert by Muse in 2001 was fresh breeze - one of the first I went to, it was right after they released Origins of Symmetry (and before they started singing about weird cosmic and political stuff).

So you might understand how I felt when the White Stripes announced they were coming to Moscow in 2005. I’d seen Franz Ferdinand and the Strokes by then, but the Stripes seemed like an unreachable dream. Everything around that concert caused me thrill and trepidation, from booking the tickets to the event itself - I remember taking the stairs as I was scared I’d get stuck in the lift and miss it! Jack and Meg gave it their all - I still can’t quite figure out how only two people could bring so much energy, with just drums, guitar and occasional piano.

Fast forward to last Wednesday, when I attended one of the intimate concerts Jack gave in London to celebrate the release of Boarding House Reach, at the Garage in Highbury (along with others in LA and New York). Somewhat controversial, somewhat experimental, the album was as though he’d turned the dial in the complete opposite direction from his White Stripes days, going from minimalistic to using every musical toy there is. It’s full of weird sounds, different instruments, noises and rhythms; I like it. I‘ve been fan of the synths myself lately (check out Let’s Get Going - yours if you subscribe). However, there was something missing to me while I listened…

Jack started a bit rusty on stage, moving slower than usual. Had he not gigged for a while? Had he gotten older? Maybe there wasn’t enough connection with the audience? I was worried he might leave the stage like he had in the past… He started with a few new tracks from BHR, throwing some rocky Lazaretto ones in between. They sounded fantastic, but to me the Jack I saw in 2005 was still missing. Even the Jack from 2014, rocking the O2 and playing for almost two hours, was missing. I didn’t see that Jack until he tapped into Blunderbuss and then Hello Operator, Screwdriver and Wasting My Time (the first song I learned on the guitar) - and that’s when he became his own weird self: making strange facial expressions while soloing, being out there, emotional and vulnerable with his voice.

Jack White is a talented and an accomplished musician who can pull off any arrangement and style, from the dark rock of the Dead Weather to Beyonce. But beneath all of that, for me, there has always been a great songwriter who can reach you with strong melody and real lyricism. Even if it’s simply his voice and a guitar. And that’s something I missed on Boarding House Reach. Maybe his next album will be an acoustic one?

 

photos courtesy of @officialjackwhitelive