Jack White @ Festival Hall, Melbourne

Not many people can on an average day, have a cheeky chat with Bob Dylan before jamming with the Edge and then playing a sold out gig to thousands of people.

Welcome to the life of guitar extraordinaire, Jack White.

Since disbanding the White Stripes at the beginning of last year there was much hype surrounding his solo record Blunderbuss which was dropped to rousing applause from most, if not, all reviewers. The Dead Weather and the Raconteurs kept us happy for a while, but both of them lacked the complete direction from White that true fans desired.

Being a massive fan of all projects tinged with the man’s guitar and voice, when he was announced as the headliner for 2012’s Splendour in the Grass, I began lining up for tickets for the inevitable sideshow.

As I headed into Festival Hall, I caught the end of a set from rockabilly, Australian princess Lanie Lane, who has singles produced by Mr White himself. After she departed the stage, leaving us with her White produced single “Ain’t Hungry.”

It wasn’t long after that when two suited, bearded men, took to the stage in order to set up a mountain of pale blue instruments. The vintage guitars that were brought on stage would have made any musician exceptionally excited for the night ahead. The crowd was a mixed bag of obvious fans of the White Stripes, hipsters and members of the Jack White fan club. I found myself in the latter as I made my way further forward in the crowd.

As the lights dimmed, White’s all-female band The Peacocks arrived on stage attired in vintage dresses ready to re-create some of White’s best work with him tonight in new and fresh fashions.

As the maestro made his way on stage, the entire audience just lost it, myself included, particularly as he busted straight into vintage the White Stripes track “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” taken from cult classic White Blood Cells. He proceeded to play through a slew of new tracks there after including “Sixteen Saltines”, a track reminiscent of his garage rock days, and “Missing Pieces” a rockabilly and more down tempo White penned track. From the beginning of his set, his ability to connect with the audience is on full display. He didn’t say much, apart from calling out the tracks that he wanted to play.

One thing about all of White’s concerts, which makes them all the more exciting, is that he refuses to play to a setlist, rather play what he feels is right, yelling out the setlist as he goes.

A highlight of the set was unknown Jack White track, from Danger Mouse’s album Rome, “Two Against One”.  This is the best part of seeing White solo, he isn’t afraid to take from his entire back catalogue of tracks with not one of his former projects missing out on a mention.

What was obvious as I stood in the mosh pit of Festival Hall was the incredible musicianship on display.  The variety of instruments incorporated into classic the White Stripes songs was impressive and intuitive. Every instrument on stage played an integral part in every song, this included a vintage drum kit and upright bass, a violin and slide guitar as well as a piano.

White wanted the night to get loud, and he made sure we were knew that “it’s not a library, [he’s] not gonna get mad at” us. It did get loud, particularly as we headed in the direction of the end of the main set with some big tracks. “Steady As She Goes” is the Raconteurs most acclaimed song and turned the moshpit into a sweaty abyss of elated fans. Closing the main set with “Ball and Biscuit”, a track polled as the White Stripes’ fans favorite, left everyone happy.

As he came back onto the stage for his encore, it was a soft, delicate rendition of “We’re Going To Be Friends” from White Blood Cells that united fans into a quiet lullaby.

There was only ever going to be one end to this concert. It was always to be “Seven Nation Army”, and boy, did he play it. The hall went into a frenzy with a moshpit that would rival some metal bands.

As I left the building, heading out into the rain, all I could hear echoing was a chant mimicking the bass line of White’s closing number. If you’re off to Splendour on the weekend, it’d be remiss of you not to catch this amazing musician.

The Setlist
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Sixteen Saltines
Missing Pieces
Love Interruption
Hotel Yorba
Weep Themselves to Sleep
I Guess I Should Go To Sleep
Two Against One
Top Yourself
You Know That I Know
I’m Slowly Turning Into You
Blue Blood Blues
Take Me With You When You Go
Steady, As She Goes
Ball and Biscuit

Freedom at 21
My Doorbell
We’re Going to Be Friends
Carolina Drama
Seven Nation Army


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