With the backdrop of a Beyonce & Jay Z concert, at nearby Soldier Field, a notable buzz was present in the air Thursday night. Strolling towards the Auditorium Theatre, I saw nothing but smiling faces either heading into the Auditorium Theatre or towards Soldier Field. Downtown Chicago was bustling.
As I got my ticket scanned, I quickly noticed a huge line at the merchandise table to the left of me. T-shirts above $30 is no doubt the norm now, but a little too rich for my blood. I scanned for more items and saw some tour exclusive guitar picks for $15 that I felt was okay to purchase but luckily the huge line dissuaded me.
The concession stands offered good ‘ole Budweiser (and his first cousin Bud Light) for $6, which in terms of beer prices is quite fair nowadays (sad to say).
As I settled in the theater the sounds of, New Orleans native, Benjamin Booker overtook the building. Opening up for Jack White for his Lazaretto tour, Booker and his band played an organic and straightforward rollicking rock ‘n’ roll set that had many people in their seats and by the stage nodding right long. Great set. Seek out Booker at Lollapalooza this year…
As I finally reached my seat and basked in the atmosphere of the energetic crowd, a blue tinged light engulfed the theater. This was a sold out crowd. Jack White would be playing next. My heart was pumping.
Jack White, an enigmatic figure for much of his career, has created such a diverse fan-base from a wide-ranging depth of music. Obviously know for his time with the White Stripes, the dissolution of the band led him to The Raconteurs and, later, The Dead Weather (where he was actually the drummer for the band). And let’s not forget his collaboration with country royalty Loretta Lynn. Jack’s solo career has allowed him to continue his virtuosity on the guitar but still keep that type of musical diversity within him. But more importantly it also gives him the ability to present his incredible body of work live. Now promoting his well received (and number one album) Lazaretto, Jack has notably been playing incredible sets.
As the crowd conversed waiting for Jack to come on…BAM!
With the curtain still drawn, the band was amplified and ready to go. The crowd rose to its feet and shouted at the top of their lungs as the curtain was drawn back and revealed Jack White and his band.
Unleashing the heavy riffs of “Icky Thump,” Jack and the band started the show with the same fury that engulfed his now “epic” show at the Chicago Theater the night before. Shuffling back and forth and across the stage, Jack had the entire crowd in a headbanging and air guitar frenzy. And just like that…the set was over. One song. The curtain was drawn again.
The crowd, feeling teased, became boisterous wanting more and more as minutes passed and silhouettes moved back and forth behind the curtain. Finally, the curtains were drawn back again and Jack was putting some new shoes on.
Starting up again, “Astro” (the up tempo rocker from the Stripes debut album) was the first song on the “second” set of the night. Judging by the fist pumping in the crowd, White Stripes songs were clearly crowd-pleasers.
Jack’s newest single, “Lazaretto,” quickly followed utilizing the talented backing band members, and, in particular, the very talented Lillie Mae Risch on violin. Her violin solo drew a huge cheer from the crowd. That’s impressive.
The Stripes sing-along-song “Hotel Yorba” made everyone prove how many verses of the song they actually knew by heart, but ultimately everyone knew to sing extra loud during the chorus.
The mood settled for a second as “Entitlement” and “Alone in My Home,” both from the new album, offered pensive lyrics, but a damn catchy piano melody on the latter song.
More Stripes songs rolled through with “The Same Boy You’ve Always Know” providing another sing along moment for the crowd. A subdued version of the always heavy-sounding “Cannon” was melded with an outstanding version of “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)” and, the reworked Raconteurs song, “Top Yourself.”
A stripped down version of “Ball and Biscuit” brought out a heavy spot of electric blues. Jack White told the crowd how if you were to ask high school students in Chicago who John Lee Hooker was, 90% would know. Conversely, the native Detroit, MI rocker, said that, sadly, the complete opposite would be true in Detroit. Jack White loves his blues and so does Chicago. So, it’s no surprise as to why we love one another…
As he ended his “second” set, the crowd clapped and shouted for more. There was a low murmur of a “Seven Nation Army” chant but it dissipated into more cheering.
Finally coming out for an encore and to a huge ovation, they started with the instrumental “High Ball Stepper.” It was a psychedelic-rock jam, which was heavy on distortion and frantic movements from the band.
The reworked version of The Dead Weather song “I Cut Like a Buffalo” didn’t quite have the same oomph that the Dead Weather live version has, but it still has the equally enjoyable funky groove.
The classic “Hello Operator,” off their second album De Stijl, allowed Jack to further showcase his penchant for electric blues licks. Sonic bliss.
The last portion of the encore slowed things down considerably. It was either exhaustion on the part of Jack White or a means to cool down Chicago from the incredible amount of energy provided from the band. The acoustic ending allowed everyone to take a breath and sing along as Jack began fingerpicking “We’re Going to Be Friends.”
As Jack ended the night with “Blunderbuss” and, the Leadbelly cover, “Goodnight Irene” the crowd was saddened it had to end. It was indeed time to say goodnight to Jack White. Fantastic night of music.
Until next time…