In an Austin Music Hall set that ran just over 100 minutes, Jack White praised Jesus, winked at Satan, covered Hank Williams and obliterated the audience with a barrage of guts and glory guitar work. With his astonishingly adept drummer Daru Jones banging up a righteous fury on the frontline, White’s set drew liberally from the White Stripes’ catalog. He opened with a furious take on "Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground" and closed with a ballistic rendition of "Seven Nation Army" that brought down the house.
Though White has evolved into one of our generation’s great musical minds and he was a commanding conductor of a full ensemble with bass, keys, fiddle, lap steel, theremin and more, the primal interplay of the drums and guitar remains his signature strength. He throttled the audience with distorted growls and ear piercing squeals as the sold out crowd screamed for more and more. In a city that worships at the unholy altar of guitar, Jack White swept in with the energy of a unhinged evangelist and took us to church.
A consummate performer, White opened by calling Austin, "easily one of the best cities in the country, then went on to shout Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, dedicating an extended rendition of the White Stripes’ "Hotel Yorba" to the King of Western swing who he said, "changed American culture for the better." He slyly slipped in a McConaughey quote, "Alright, alright, alright," and brought local guitar great Charlie Sexton out to swap blistering licks in a climactic moment near the end of the set.
His color scheme du jour is blue and the stage lights alternated between a cool wash, a blinding blue backlight and a staccato strobe.His musicians were clothed in blue and black and White himself wore a blue button down shirt with black suspenders and trousers. His black hair flopped on his face in an unruly mop. A friend described his overall look as "hillbilly, goth Elvis."
Though the entire performance moved at a high octane pace there were slower moments. White set his inner honky tonker free on numbers like "Just One Drink" and the aforementioned Hank Williams song "You Know that I Know" (which felt like a sideways jab at his ex-wife). The crowd went wild when he played "Lazaretto" his most recent radio hit and the title track of his 2014 album, but the White Stripes songs got the biggest rise.
70 minutes in he took an interlude and cheering for an encore the crowd started singing "Seven Man Army" in unison. When White returned with a blasting out "Icky Thump" they went nuts. He indulged the nostalgia, but the songs revisited with full band arrangements still felt fresh and vital. And White’s intensity is striking. He’s a well known retro revivalist — White’s Third Man Records pumps out more vinyl than anyone on the planet and cell phones was strictly banned at the show, but he’s also one of the most forward thinking musicians working today. He plays guitar not only like his life depends on it, but like the future of music depends on it. And who know, maybe it does.