Jack White’s live performances crash down upon the leaping heads of the audience.
A mere five days after the release of his third studio album, Boarding House Reach, and a mere handful of hours before his sold-out London gig, Jack White could be found performing a free gig in the courtyard of London’s oldest pub, The George Inn. White and his band roared their way through a selection of songs that dated all the way back to some that had originally been recorded by The White Stripes. The setlist was expansive and well appreciated by a crowd that had started lining up before midday, for a concert that wasn’t due to start until 5:00 in the afternoon. With news of the concert only breaking nine hours before White took the stage, fans rushed down to The George Inn with the promise of free beer – an exclusive Jack White ‘Humoresque’ beer named after a track on the new album – proving a welcome reward for braving the rain.
By 1 o’clock in the afternoon, with two and a half hours until doors opened, less than twenty diehard fans were huddled under the pub’s outdoor awning, sheltering from the rain, blocking the way for the regular punters, and holding out for their free pint until the gig started. Latecomers, if those arriving with over two hours to spare until doors opened could be called such, mistook the sheltering for a line and within half an hour the line stretched out the courtyard, out the gates, down the street, and down a nearby alleyway. As more and more people got wind of the gig, and the rain eased up, the line eventually ended up doubling back on itself, and many were sadly unable to make their way in, with only the first 400 let through.
As the doors opened, the rain eased up, and by the time White and his band took the stage the sun was shining down on the rain-soaked crowd. The respite from the rain lasted the duration of the gig, which opened with Boarding House Reach single ‘Over and Over and Over’ and included such songs as White Stripes tracks ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’, ‘Cannon’ and ‘Fell In Love With A Girl,’ as well as Lazaretto’s titular track, and a number of other tunes from Boarding House Reach. White informed the crowd after the fourth song that he’d been asked to stop there, but the resulting roar from the crowd spurred him and his band on to play a further four more tracks. In classic White style, while eight tracks might often only last a half hour or so, the performance lasted just under an hour thanks to glorious jams and solos and elongated bridges. The sound was crunchy and raw, in a way that only White seems able to deliver. Where White’s studio albums often have enough grit and power to sound like other bands’ live recordings, his live performances go an extra step further and crash down upon the leaping heads of the audience. Early in the performance, technical difficulties meant that the mix was devoid of bass and synths. In these moments, the robustness of White’s guitar-playing and songwriting shone through as his vocals and guitar-work, along with the ferocious drumming, anchored the tracks so effortlessly that those with their eyes closed, unaware of the frantic movements onstage, mightn’t have ever noticed any issues.
But then, all too soon, it was over. Jack White walked offstage, and as the audience chanted, fruitlessly it would turn out, for “one more song,” it started to rain once more.