Jack White @ Festival Hall
There he was, the defining rock star of the 2000s, indulging in what he denied himself for so long. These days, Jacky White is touring with twice as many backing bands than he once had bandmates. Tonight featured The Peacocks, whereas the following Splendour set alternated between The Peacocks and whatever the all-male counterpart is called. But it doesn’t really matter – the gimmick is probably White’s most excessive, but it is still a gimmick nonetheless. The old tools of misdirection – the endearingly absurd veneer of sibling, the cheap toy guitar – have been jettisoned. Some traits remain – the adherence to a tri-colour palette (baby blue in, red out), the sharply dressed roadies, and the fetish with the number three. White claims he still performs without the benefit of a setlist, but the raw spontaneity of The White Stripes’ live performance was not really present. It was a tradeoff of that it-all-could-go-wrong-any-second danger and more conventional musicality, and it was a fair trade at that.
Tonight’s run-through was one third Blunderbuss, one third White Stripes, one third miscellaneous. The Blunderbuss material was a bit more involved than what the cavernous Festival Hall allowed, but provided a more levelled dynamic for the night.
I might be missing the mark, but leading into a track called Top Yourself with a long recount of a suicidal Melbourne stalker seemed to be in pretty poor taste. Hank Williams’ You Know That I Know (the only cover of the night), was pretty pointless, with White failing to convey the frail heartache of the track’s writer.
Weirdly enough, Raconteurs track Steady, As She Goes generated the most rapturous crowd response of the night. The whole darn barn was flipping their lid at that simple chorus. Good stuff. Stripes classics My Doorbell and, of course, Seven Nation Army were surefire powerhouses. Ball And A Biscuit, one of the finest tracks White has ever crafted, rounded out the pre-encore portion of the evening in fine fashion. “Let’s take our sweet little time about it.”
I guess what made me uncomfortable tonight was that this wasn’t The White Stripes. The White Stripes are gone. That time I given detention in year 8 for humming the Seven Nation Army riff nonstop is gone. Waiting hours, maybe days, to download the Fell In Love With A Girl filmclip from Kazaa. The Big Day Out where I missed an opportunity to climb onstage with The Stooges to try and gain a prime White Stripes vantage point. Dissuading the illegal download argument by talking with a friend about how good the inlay of the Get Behind Me Satan CD actually smelled. Starting a two-piece band like every other arsehole at the time; I think we might have covered Apple Blossom. Strumming along on a shitty nylon guitar, serenading my highschool sweetheart with Hotel Yorba at the foot of her bed. God, haven’t thought about her in years.
That overwhelming nostalgia was compounded with the overwhelmingly nostalgic We’re Going To Be Friends, the third last track of the evening. I miss Meg White. I miss my youth. Just silly thoughts going through my head.
Jacky White and his Peacocks were Very Good and these songs are Very Special.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Photo credit: Mary Boukouvalas
LOVED: That organic ‘whoo!’ from the crowd that fills in the blanks on Slowly Turning Into You.
HATED: Splendour FOMO.