Every piece you read about Jack White and/or a Jack White-related project probably incorporates the same themes — he’s one of music’s most innovative yet commercially appealing figures and his talents extend beyond the guitar. He’s also a drummer, producer, inventor, record executive, eBay salesman, husband, father, and so much more. Of course, with such an array of attributes also comes an unpredictable nature, which has led to the creation of three bands, a record label, and production credits that extend from Conan O’Brien to a Swedish metal band. Which leads to this point, January 24th, 2011, in which I have no fucking idea what Mr. White will do next.
After all, who could have predicted this time last year that White’s January 2011 venture would be a short U.S. tour backing 73-year-old rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson as she supported the album which he produced? Personally, I had White Stripes VIII in the pool. But that he did, first producing Jackson’s first studio album in eight years for release on his imprint, Third Man Records, then hitting the road with her for select dates in Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles, as well as appearances on Letterman and Conan.
Friday night’s performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg was a microcosm of where White is in his life. This is a man, after all, who could call up Meg, announce a tour, and then instantly sell out arenas across the globe, headline festivals, and if, he really wanted to, ride his White Stripes project into rock music immortality. He could still do that (maybe tomorrow for all I know), but on Friday, White did his very best to play the supporting role for the Queen of Rockabilly. Most, if not all, the crowd has come to watch Jack, and rightfully so, but Jackson was not one to be upstaged. “Are you ready to rock, ’cause I’m ready to rock,” she declared as the initial blaze of Jack’s riff resonated through the building, which then gave way to “Riot in Cell Block #9”.
Photo courtsey Roxxan Hanson
Part of Jackson’s charm is the endearing nature that she exudes, both exemplified in how she talked about White (as if a Grandmother was proudly talking about her successful Grandson) to the way in which she presented herself on stage. “I saw Elvis do this in Vegas,” she noted as she pulled out a lyric sheet for “Busted”. “If it’s good enough for the King, it’s good enough for the Queen.”
Each song was preempted by a story. “Blue Yodel #6″ was the first song she ever learned to sing, harmonize, and play guitar to at the same time.”Fujiyama Mama” was her “#1 song in Japan.” Shakin’ All Over” was the track that White brought to her, which prompted her to question his sanity. Between this, her sometimes raspy but forever passionate vocals, and the amazing supporting cast led by White, the whole evening was nothing less than captivating and if you knew not of Jackson before attending, it was impossible not only to walk away impressed but a fan.
As for White? Tried he might to stay out of the spotlight, but it’s a difficult feat when you’re as much of a legend as the person you’re supporting. Plus, it was his first post-Dead Weather live performance, meaning his first performance solely on guitar and if one word were to sum up his night, it’d probably have to be antsy. White blew his amp on the first solo, broke a string on the another, and jammed the hell out on every other opportunity he got. It was the same Jack White we became familiar with seeing in candy-stripe clothing, the one who you can’t stop watching YouTube videos of when you search “The White Stripes live.” Jumping, singing, smiling. The only thing missing was Meg.
But while conclusions could be made that White’s sparkle might mean he’s ready for a new White Stripes record, other points promoted some rethinking. He seemed to enjoy being a band leader and even more so, Jackson’s producer. Each of her stories was accompanied with a smile from White and the only words he said were in affirmation of the 73-year-old legend.
So, upon exiting the Music Hall some 80 minutes after the legendary artist stepped on-stage and then went on to obliterate ear drums, here are the conclusions: 1.) Wanda Jackson is the coolest 73-year-old-ever, 2.) I now officially have no fucking idea what White will do next, and 3.) My money might be on a Rammstein roadie.
Riot in Cell Block #9
Mean Mean Mean
You Know I’m No Good
Like a Baby
Right or Wrong
Blue Yodel #6
Rip it Up
Funnel of Love
Dust on the Bible
Let’s Have a Party
Shakin’ All Over
Gallery by Roxxan Hanson