Keys And Chords
Jack White • 16 November 2014 • Forest National Brussels
Jack White’s tour to support his latest album Lazaretto came to Brussels on 16 November. On the same day there was another totally different but important event in my calendar: voting for the election of the new Romanian president. And it would have been just any other lovely week-end day if the (surprisingly still) current Romanian government had done their job properly and organize the voting conditions with a minimum amount of consideration for their voters abroad. But instead, I spent 5 hours queuing in the cold to do what’s constitutionally one of my rights. “Only” 5 hours, as other Romanians around the world spent 8 to 10 hours without even succeeding it. At the end of the afternoon, frozen, hungry and deeply upset, I had to ask myself: will I still be able to go to Jack’s concert… Well, hell, yes. No politician can break my spirit this way. So, off I go.
Having already seen the show in Bucharest, Romania two weeks before, I knew a bit what to expect. But the concert in Forest National was really a blast. Full house, enthusiastic and very responsive audience and a hyper energy from the opening track – High Ball Stepper, until the last one – Seven Nation Army.
Persona and setlist
Two things define Jack White at this moment: his persona and his concerts setlist. Although among the artists who have managed to hit the mainstream scene, Jack White didn’t became successful by using recipes, but by trying to build his own with using very personal ingredients, like his family background, being the youngest child in a family of 12 members and learning to play instruments on his own, following his older brothers. Or his home city culture – Detroit, with its landscapes and music scene, especially the blues. And a personal artistic ambition of keeping the feeling of Son House's "Grinnin' In Your Face" throughout everything he does. He may still look like Johnny Deep in Edward Scissorhands, but he is this endless little boy who does wonders on scene and keeps twisting his internal artistic urge into concrete spirals of creativity. The setlist of Lazaretto Tour goes through the last 15 years of activity and three of his periods: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and his solo career.
Jack White appears on stage and starts playing as if his mad with himself, mad with his guitar, mad with all the inner feelings which has to come out for catharsis. Two different sounds during the show: one, very electric, heated, with a lot of action of stage, a feeling of amplitude and angry desperation and another one calmer, acoustics, with lots of songs inspired of the country music scene. Plus a lengthy encore, full of hits.
After High Ball Stepper, the first single of his latest album, he continued with During the Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, which had an ending as if the entire concert would stop right at that moment. This force, singing as if that would be the last song of the evening, was used for other songs as well, like on the next track, Lazaretto, much more electric than on the album and with a stronger duo combination of the electric guitar and violin. “My veins are blue and connected and every single cell in my brain is electric”. Electric sound in a blue crazy light, this was the leitmotiv of the entire evening.
A musical respiro
After a short speech, a short break in the heaviness of the sound followed with Hotel Yorba, the White Stripes’ song sang together with the audience and Temporary Ground, from the latest album, interesting parallel in time. Hotel Yorba changed completely the ambience and brought the double bass into the spot light. Weep Themselves to Sleep, song from his debut solo album – Blunderbuss, had a dramatic performance, well stress with piano sounds, a good vocal line and guitar solo.
The angry bluesman
A special moment in the setlist was the combined performance of two White Stripes pieces: the heavy intro of Cannon was combined ingenuously with the wiping blues of I Fought Piranhas, with the result of a heart-rending, heart-breaking very intensive momentum. Sixteen Saltines coming next, keeping up the energy until the first real break of the show.
Jack White’s catalog
What followed was a mixture of tracks from Jack’s entire discography. Known for his dislike of having preset setlists and the hate of using the same lines when talking to the audience, he is introducing different songs in his sets and his speeches are targeted and original each time. Also, there was a lot of improvisation between the songs, jamming with the drummer (the awesome Daru Jones) and plenty of guitar solos and scribblings, making everybody curious of what’s gonna be played next.
Top Yourself, a The Raconteurs song, benefits heavy of improvisation, with switching guitars and heavy jazzy rhythms, spiced up with mini-solos of the other instruments while he was presenting the band members. There is incredible creative chemistry between him and the other members, especially with Daru Jones. In addition, there is also an obvious sexual chemistry with Lillie Mae Rische, the female fiddle player, but all is for the best of course.
Blunderbuss album was greatly represented with the eponym song and with Hypocritical Kiss and together with I'm a Honky Tonk Girl (Loretta Lynn cover) formed up another acoustics country-like moment.
But, at the same time, this blend of songs from different periods and different sounds could and probably brought along some frustration. But he managed to incorporate everything into a compact sound-wise and visual-wise concept, solid as well as at the execution level. Everything was high top quality, although I had a small feeling of boredom until he reached hits like: We're Going to Be Friends or You Don't Know What Love Is, and this despite, for example, an excellent performance of Three Women or another dramatic interpretation of I'm Slowly Turning Into You. But this could have also been the result of being tired or too mentally set to assisting mostly concerts which last no longer than 1hour 20min, which was not the case. Jack White left the scene after 1 and a half hour, to come back for an encore of no less than 5 songs. Two hours in total.
I guess every wish came true during the encore. Of course he had Seven Nation Army at the very end of the show. My personal wish was for Would you Fight for my Love?, which was successfully fulfilled. Steady As She Goes and Icky Thump were there as well as a huge awesome bonus of The Black Bat Licorice.
I like Jack White. I like his tenacity in becoming an original individual in fields where many others had stepped before and become famous – guitar, rock-blues, jumping from one personal project to another. These grounds were so plowed, so seeded and highly cultivated that it’s almost difficult to imagine that he could resist in and keep going. And turning out to be the artist with a number 1 album in the Vinyl Albums charts in anno domini 2014.
- High Ball Stepper (Lazaretto, 2014)
- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes - White Blood Cells, 2002)
- Lazaretto (Lazaretto, 2014)
- Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes - White Blood Cells, 2002)
- Temporary Ground (Lazaretto, 2014)
- Weep Themselves to Sleep (Blunderbuss, 2012)
- Cannon part 1 (The White Stripes, 1999)
- I Fought Piranhas (The White Stripes, 1999)
- Cannon part 2 (The White Stripes, 1999)
- Sixteen Saltines (Blunderbuss, 2012)
- Top Yourself (The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely, 2008)
- Hypocritical Kiss (Blunderbuss, 2012)
- Blunderbuss (Blunderbuss, 2012)
- I'm a Honky Tonk Girl (Loretta Lynn cover)
- We're Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes - White Blood Cells, 2002)
- Three Women (Lazaretto, 2014)
- You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told) ((The White Stripes - Icky Thump, 2007)
- I'm Slowly Turning Into You (The White Stripes - Icky Thump, 2007)
- Icky Thump (The White Stripes - Icky Thump, 2007)
- Steady, As She Goes (The Raconteurs song)
- Would You Fight for My Love? (Lazaretto, 2014)
- That Black Bat Licorice (Lazaretto, 2014)
- Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes, 1999)
Report: Ioana Nica – Photo’s: David James Swanson (personal photographer of Jack White) ©