On Tuesday, Feb. 3, Jack White and his five-piece band played a full house at Popejoy, and the performance was refreshingly classic. It was apparent that White is intent on bringing back something that's been missing from rock 'n' roll for decades.
In a crowd of mostly college kids, it was easy to be taken back to a time when a love for a band was so fervent that the band could do no wrong. The sound quality and stage presence didn’t much matter. The fact that this iconic figure was right there in the flesh—right in front of you—was enough. Tastes evolve and become more discerning, and sometimes it’s not so easy to get lost in the moment—especially if the sound guy is too stoned, the band members don’t seem interested in giving their best, or the musicianship just isn’t there. Thank goodness Jack White continues to care about what he pumps out and how he presents it.
The White Stripes was the perfect platform for White to find his style. Now, he has the resources, freedom and drive to tailor his sound and handpick incredibly talented members for his band to help him realize that vision. Mixing White Stripes hits with more recent solo tunes and covers, White delivered a lengthy concert that included peaks and valleys. His versatile backing band of multi-instrumentalists kept the set fresh. White also headed over to the piano at one point, playing a haunting ballad and looking and sounding quite comfortable on keys. It was obvious that drummer Daru Jones has chops for days, but he kept it simple per Jack’s preferences without losing any precision or energy. Visually striking musician Lillie Mae Rische switched seamlessly back and forth—from fiddle to mandolin—and her voice could put a siren to shame; she harmonizes with White so sweetly that it almost makes you want to go to church … for the choir.
The other three band members, respectively rocking bass, keys and pedal steel, are no less talented; White's band made the jam feel more like a journey than a meandering mishap, as is too often the case with jam bands. Add two semi trucks worth of lighting and sound equipment to the mix, and the result was a bona fide arena show squeezed into the intimacy of Popejoy Hall. It was reminiscent of Deep Purple or The Allman Brothers Band concerts from the '70s I've seen on Youtube—more reminders of being born too late. With an eight-song encore, the show clocked in at just under two hours. White was sheepish and shy, only addressing the audience at the end of the show, but he's a consummate showman who clearly cares about preserving a dying art—one where people write and perform their own songs and pour their souls, sweat and grit into every note.