Sunday, October 14, 2012

ACL TV Review: Jack White

Without a doubt, tonight's performance by Jack White for Austin City Limits Television was one of the most extraordinary tapings I have ever been to. If The White Stripes was Jack demonstrating the power of the song through minimalism and The Raconteurs was Jack showing how he could be a part of a band, his solo material is Jack as band leader. He played songs that spanned his career and he did so through a brand new lens. Hearing songs like Hotel Yorba as full-on country jams with a 5-6 piece band complete with fiddle and steel guitar made them sound brand new. It was as if everything you heard from The White Stripes was simply a demo and now Jack has the resources to flesh-out the songs in his head.

The thing that was most amazing about tonight's set was the lack of big, recognizable numbers that still managed to move the crowd and keep them on their feet. This was rock 'n roll as religion and we all just attended a revival. Jack White is no mortal musician, he is a conduit, a medium channeling the great blues-axe-men throughout history. He doesn't flail around on stage and create phony energy, he is simply a vessel that rock 'n roll passes through. He was a man possessed tonight, possessed by the energy of great American music. In one moment he was the past, present and future of hard rock and on the next song he was playing Appalachian hills music.

Jack White - Hypocritical Kiss video via YouTube

The stage was bathed in powder blue lighting, which matched the vintage suit that Jack donned. For the first half of his set he performed with his five-piece all-male band The Buzzards. The drummer hit harder and sat higher than any other drummer I have ever seen in my life. They were the tightest jazz-blues-country band I have ever seen and they made me want to jump up and shout at every break. The set highlight with The Buzzards was most definitely the Dead Weather song, I Cut Like a Buffalo, which was terse driving and created a frenetic energy in the crowd. Jack played roughly 6 or 7 songs with The Buzzards.

As the men left the stage, 6 women dressed in powder blue dresses appeared. Jack grabbed his acoustic guitar as the stage hands changed drum risers. Jack removed his powder blue jacket and continued the latter half of his performance with his 6-piece female band The Peacocks. This part of the set was just as energetic and driving but featured the more country-tinged songs than blues-tinged songs. The set highlight from The Peacocks was probably The Raconteurs song, Top Yourself although it's harder to choose a favorite from this half of the set since all of the songs were stand-outs.

There was no encore, although the audience was most definitely ready for one but as it was, we heard an hour and fifteen minute set in an intimate space for free. It was one of the most exciting, energetic lessons in rock 'n roll I have ever been a part of and I feel so happy to have been in that room tonight. The episode will air in January and really hope they are able to give Jack White the full hour. Look for it on your local PBS in 2013!