Scottish Rite Cathedral at Masonic Temple
Thursday, May 24, 2012
The White Stripes have a very loyal fanbase and received critcal acclaim for both their studio material and their consistent live performances which featured a very unpredictable assortment of songs, both fan favourites and rare cuts with hits being occasionally ignored. I could go into the details of the White Stripes breakup, but while on the road in 2007 the bands drummer (Meg White) was experiencing acute anxiety and as a result the band discontinued touring. Despite the praise and some brief teases of a return, on February 2, 2011 the band officially called it a day. In this period of uncertainty, lead singer and essentially the project kingpin Jack White (vocals, guitar, keys, every instrument aside from drums) continued into other ventures as both a performer, producer, and founder of Third Man Records. So he's been busy the last four years or so with other bands (the Raconteurs, Dead Weather), but fans have been clamouring for something from Jack where he is the dedicated focal point, which is exactly what happened as he released his first solo album this past spring, Blunderbuss, which has received critical acclaim. On the record and during recent live sets he has been performing with two different bands, The Peacocks and Los Buzzardos, which is reportedly decided upon at his morning breakfast before the show.
The White Stripes were formed in Detroit and although Jack now calls Nashville home, after two years of being off the road with the other projects it had been even longer for fans in the Motor City to get the chance to experience favourites in person from his biggest project. Upon selling out an evening set at the Scottish Rite Cathedral at Masonic Temple came the announcement of a 2pm matinee set at the same venue, with tickets being released exclusively through local record stores (but eventually Ticketmaster helped us out of towners attend). As a frequent concert-goer, this was definitely the earliest non-festival show that I have attended and it was a very unique experience.
Doors opened shortly after lunchtime with fans lining the lobby for merchandise and eventually populating the cathedral (beautiful venue) in anticipation of Jack's return to Detroit. As a very sharp-dressed stage crew began to unveil the equipment it was revealed that Jack would be performing with Los Buzzardos (the all-male group) and after a quick introductory jam, the man everybody wanted to see emerged to a hungry audience... remember, this is still in the middle of the afternoon.
Opening up with a thunderous rendition of "Black Math" in which the arrangement was significantly altered, it set the tone for what would be a crazy day in Detroit. Continuing along into tracks from the solo album, Jack displayed his range by playing the piano with keyboardist Isaiah Owens (of Mars Volta fame) on "Trash Tongue Talker" and eventually slowing things down with the Danger Mouse-produced track "Two Against One". Next up was a personal favourite of mine, "We're Going to Be Friends", which much like the other Stripes songs has an updated arrangement in order to fully utilize the backing band. This track definitely hit home with me and has always been a personal favourite of mine, so despite the new sound to it, in person I feel it sounds better than online. Continuing on with a series of songs performed on the piano were Blunderbuss tracks "Weep Themselves to Sleep", "Hypocritical Kiss", the title track and even the older White Stripes hit "Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground". The relatively slower nature of the set was certainly a different dynamic from Jack White, but in my opinion, he makes it very enjoyable. Fitting for a matinee set, anyways (or perhaps I'm justifying my choice).
The songs performed were not limited to original hits as the band performed "300 Pounds of Joy" by Howlin' Wolf and shortly after "You Know That I Know" (Hank Williams) which was met with an upbeat reaction from the audience. Returning to the White Stripes collection with the strong "Hello Operator", the set began to head into its final act with Dead Weather track "I Cut Like a Buffalo" and wrapping up with an absolute classic in "Ball and Biscuit", which featured Jack-being-Jack on the guitar and solo'ing away.
After a momentary stoppage the band returned for an encore which started with new single "Freedom at 21" and Dead Weather track "Blue Blood Blues", before jumping into the floor-shaking final White Stripes song of the afternoon, "The Hardest Button to Button". I had always wanted to hear this one live, so I was quite happy with this choice. Closing out the encore was the Blunderbuss album-closer "Take Me With You When You Go", which featured Jack on the piano before the song changes direction and allows him to deliver a powerful solo to wrap up this afternoon in Detroit.
Definitely an interesting set as we got quite a few White Stripes staples, but one quick glance at the setlist one could see there was no "Seven Nation Army", no Raconteurs material, and various other fan favourites ("I'm Slowly Turning Into You", "Hotel Yorba"), which were all saved for the evening set that featured the all-female band The Peacocks. The matinee set featured primarily Blunderbuss tracks with White Stripes, Dead Weather, and covers sprinkled in, whereas the evening set included a different set of Stripes songs, Raconteurs favourites, and a handful of others. One could debate which set was better (and we have been doing so all day), but while there is some disappointment since I only attended one of the shows, the afternoon set featured a handful of White Stripes songs I would never expect to see excluded at a show as they were at night ("Ball and Biscuit", "Dead Leaves...", "...Going to Be Friends") so all-in-all I am okay with only getting to one show. From what I have heard from friends who attended the night set, Jack was more energetic, but I also expected that considering it was an evening set and not one that was just after lunch. If one merges the two sets into one, it creates a mega show so in the grand scheme of things the matinee provided enough highlights but the best moments were being saved for the grand finale at night.
However, for those fans who were fortunate enough to catch both sets on this sunny Thursday in Detroit they were treated to a very rewarding day of hits, fan favourites, rare cuts, and nearly the complete Blunderbuss album. If you get the opportunity to see Jack live, do it (without question), and hope that you get the best combination of 20 songs from his extremely diverse discography as the setlists tend to differentiate from show-to-show. There were signs posted at the venue to not take video or pictures as they were being taken care of professionally, but considering the diversity in the setlists from one show to the next, a DVD of this homecoming would be very welcome as the day properly captured the quality and range of Jack White.
Trash Tongue Talker
Two Against One
We're Going to Be Friends
Weep Themselves to Sleep
300 Pounds of Joy (Howlin' Wolf)
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (Piano)
You Know That I Know (Hank Williams)
I Cut Like a Buffalo
Ball and Biscuit
Freedom at 21
Blue Blood Blues
The Hardest Button to Button
Take Me With You When You Go
Album Breakdown (Matinee):
The White Stripes: 6 (Elephant: 3; White Blood Cells: 2; De Stijl: 1)
Dead Weather: 2 (Horehound: 1; Sea of Cowards: 1)
Freedom at 21
You're Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl)
Weep Themselves to Sleep
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
I'm Slowly Turning Into You
Steady As She Goes
On and On and On
Take Me With You When You Go
Seven Nation Army
Goodnight, Irene (Leadbelly)
Album Breakdown (Evening):
The White Stripes: 7 (The White Stripes: 2; De Stijl; 1 Elephant: 1; Get Behind Me Satan: 1; Icky Thump: 1; White Blood Cells: 1)
The Raconteurs: 3 (Consolers of the Lonely: 2; Broken Boy Soldiers: 1)
Album Breakdown (Combined):
White Stripes: 13
The Raconteurs: 3
Dead Weather: 2