Jack White's Lazaretto Tour
With Olivia Jean
Fillmore Miami Beach
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Better Than: An evening without feedback and hearing damage.
Is rock 'n' roll dead? Fuck no.
Just over a decade ago, the White Stripes' Jack and Meg came screaming, shredding, and pounding out of Detroit to help prove that guitar-and-drum tuneage could still rattle bones and make a body feel alive -- even amid a Top 40 glut of mediocre post-gangsta rap, pop tart crap, and boy band bullshit.
Last night at the Fillmore Miami Beach, Jack (now solo, minus Meg, and based in Nashville) did it again, for maybe the 1,000,000th time, unleashing 100 minutes of ear-scorching, skull-busting evidence that rock's nowhere near the grave -- even in this age of cheap, chart-topping EDM and formulaic meta-pop.
The sold-out opener of a two-night stand, yesterday's show started with Olivia Jean, who's set to release her debut solo album, Bathtub Love Killings, on White's Third Man Records next month.
A rocker chick with an Elvira haircut, she and her band tore through a 30-minute set of razor-sharp yet groovy tunes, as the assembled mob spilled beer and tossed off enthusiastic screams.
After Ms. Jean said bye, roadies yanked a white, pleated curtain around the stage to erect the Lazaretto tour stage set, as a blue haze descended and the crowd launched into an anticipatory "Jack! Jack! Jack!" chant.
But instead of Mr. White, a mustachioed, fedora-wearing MC stepped out to make what might be called the Put-Your-Fucking-Phones-Away Announcement.
"This is a live musical experience," he said with a smirk. "You are not at home watching YouTube. This is the real thing. So all we ask is you leave those devices in your pockets and be present with us, within these four walls, tonight.
"Now," the MC added, "we do realize that you want to post photos on all your whatevers that you've got going on. So we hired a photographer who travels with us, takes photos for the entire night, and posts them up on Jack's website so you all can download them for free. We're doing the work for you! And all you have to do is enjoy the show!"
Back in the 2000s, Jack White raged against digital recording-studio wizardry.
In 2014, it's Instagram.
Exactly 17 minutes later, White and his five-person band streaked out of the gloom. They took the stage, snatched up their instruments, and ripped into "High Ball Stepper," the instrumental cut off his new Lazaretto record.
Jack's axe rumbled and boomed and screeched. And he flailed and stumbled and theatrically staggered while the drummer jumped off his stool, beating the kit, and the rest of the band went into a full-on frenzy too.
This opening burst of start-and-stop chaos lasted a full seven wordless minutes. Just long enough to get skulls (literally) buzzing.
Deafening. Thudding. Piercing.
If you've only ever listened to Jack White on record, whether the White Stripes stuff or his two recent solo slabs, it's easy to underestimate the raw power and sheer volume of the man and his guitar in real fucking life.
But from "High Ball Stepper" through "Lazaretto" and "I Think I Smell a Rat," he shocked first-timers by blasting through his punked-up, hard-and-heavy blues rock with the brutality and fury that's often only expected of metal and mind-melting noise.
Some popped in earplugs. Others embraced aural trauma.
Of course, Jack White's equally capable of turning down as turning up.
So throughout the night, he swapped the electric for an acoustic to toss off some whimsical rearrangements of White Stripes classics -- and even a puckish study in American roots tuneage.
There was a country-fied "Hotel Yorba," complete with fiddle solo and a schoolroom-style sing-along. (When White sang, "Well, it's 1, 2, 3, 4/Take the elevator/At the Hotel Yorba/I'll be glad to see you later" ... The crowd, giddily shouting, answered, "All they got inside is vacancy!")
And then there was a jazzy groove rock take of "We Are Gonna Be Friends," the closest thing to twee that Jack White might ever write.
But maybe the evening's finest low-key cut was the bristling, smirking "You Know That I Know," an unfinished Hank Williams song that White completed for the 2011 tribute album, The Lost Notebooks.
Oh, and as far as cute and quiet ... Did we mention the theremin solo?
Ostensibly, the show ended with exactly that kind of nice, placid moment. Another sing-along. A farewell.
But then the "Seven Nation Army" soccer chant rose from the mob: "Oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, ohh, ohh." It crescendoed and crashed and crested again. "Oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, ohh, ohh." Over and over and over.
Finally, after five minutes, White and the band charged out from the backstage shadows and blue gloom, ripping into a final furious jag of raw, real rock 'n' roll.
Loud, fast, hard. They tore into a throbbing, stripped-back "Icky Thump." And they burned through a bitter, menacing "Freedom at 21."
Then, with Jack White serving as maestro, he, his crew, and the crowd did "Seven Nation Army." The bandleader handled axe duties. The backing musicians held down the rest of the noise. And the audience provided the oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, ohh, ohhs.
Rock is not dead. No fucking way. Goodnight.
Jack White's Setlist:
-"High Ball Stepper"
-"I Think I Smell a Rat"
-"Just One Drink"
-"Weep Themselves to Sleep"
-"Fell in Love With a Girl"
-"I Cut Like a Buffalo"
-"The Same Boy You've Always Known"
-"The Hardest Button to Button"
-"You Know That I Know"
-"We're Going to Be Friends"
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-"Freedom at 21"
-"Seven Nation Army"
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