Live Review Jack White, Hammersmith Apollo, London 3rd July 2014

This isn’t a ‘Lazaretto’ tour, not even a Greatest Hits set; it’s ‘an evening with Jack White’.

For a man with such a strict obsession with colour, Jack White is one hell of a chameleon. The stage set may be entirely blue – even if coincidentally, so are the lights in the lobby bar area – but this is a crowd ranging from young children on parents’ shoulders to white-haired women; of t-shirts emblazoned with Smashing Pumpkins’ Zero, The Orwells, My Chemical Romance, the weekend’s Glastonbury Festival and even defunct Sheffield noiseniks Wet Nuns, to take a small sample. Jack White is a man who’s as at home covering Hank Williams as he is Metallica, Kanye West – or as tonight’s snippet shows – The Dead Kennedys, fitting in a touch of ‘Holiday in Cambodia’.

Obviously, then, switching between his own solo material, songs recorded by The White Stripes, or those from The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather is as instinctive as breathing in or out. ‘Hotel Yorba’ is given its now customary hoedown treatment allowing it to fit in seamlessly alongside ‘Temporary Ground’ from this year’s ‘Lazaretto’, while ‘Ball and Biscuit’ and ‘Icky Thump’ remain angst fuelled-blasts of thrashing guitar. ‘Steady, As She Goes’ has become an old friend surprisingly missed, surpassed only in surprise by ‘Hello Operator’ getting an airing. This isn’t a ‘Lazaretto’ tour, not even a Greatest Hits set; it’s ‘an evening with Jack White’.

His band cocooning him in the centre of the stage, he flits from member to member, interacting in different ways; the vocal duets with violinist Lillie Mae Rische; the call-and-response with drummer Daru Jones; the occasional interrupting of Fats Kaplin’s theremin. Setlists still appear arbitrary, White whispering in the ear of each – completed by keyboardist Ikey Owens and bassist Dominic Davis – to dictate the next song.

Jack White, Hammersmith Apollo, London

In a week when arguably the most powerful man in the British music industry is boasting of the album’s demise, it’s not the inevitable ‘Seven Nation Army’ sing-a-long that’s tonight’s highlight (though the violin riff of ‘High Ball Stepper’ more than rivals that for post-gig chants), the thrash of ‘Sixteen Saltines’, or even the idea that Mariah Carey was once invited to perform backing vocals on a White Stripes song. During ‘I’m Slowly Turning Into You’, an ‘Icky Thump’ album track, a record frequently cited as indicative of The White Stripes’ demise, Jack White stepped back from the mic. The crowd sang every single word back. That, George, is the power of an album in action.


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