It was the indestructible dog-duke himself, Iggy Pop, who once said, “When it comes to art, money is an unimportant detail; it just happens to be a huge unimportant detail.” Right you are as usual, Mr. Osterberg, and never have these hallowed locutions hung more harrowingly than in this age of ever-encroaching TV eyes. There can be little debate that, of all the breathing things daily dwindling from our de-greening planet, princely men who do not allow payouts to determine their parameters are the cryptids sighted less and less frequently no matter how deep into the forest one forays – or, how far one backpacks into the metropolitan jungles. Detroit, as a creative collective unto itself, can at times be a seigneurial donkey derby of cash-cynicism with regard to what constitutes admirable, non-polluted artistic success. However, it is also known to set one of the highest holistic bars in America with regard to churning out craftsmen, thinkers, and seers who embody the self-supported maxim to machine-made faultlessness. Even amongst the very best of those fortified few, Jack White towers – the tallest of all wave-driven ice volcanoes in the independence game. Now in his third decade of manual melody-mountaineering and back with his latest ear-eruption, Fear of the Dawn, he has produced a stained glass bayonet of an album seemingly written in future-lost systems of musical notation. He showed off the real-time arrangements of this record and scores more when the Supply Chain Issues Tour took up a three-day residence at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Tuesday through Thursday, April 26th to 28th.
A Man Made By Hand
Most who have had their ears swiveled in the right direction since 2001 or before already know that Jack White is a mythical figure from whom a Moe Tucker-esque type of untouchable electricity seems to emanate. A dark and beautiful blaze of a man, he is majestically without cant. Whether bedecked in his Belias-beguiling black or spangle-suited to outshine the sun à la Porter Wagoner, he is a born aestheticist, an independent publisher, a children’s book author, a rabid collector of esoterica, a professional upholsterer, the steward of a George Nelson-designed house in Michigan, creator of bespoke effects pedals (one of which being the infamous Plasma Coil, the only musical device in existence that amplifies the sound to 3500 volts), and a magnetic accumulator of first-rate friends such as Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, Bob Dylan, and Conan O’Brien. He has played Elvis opposite John C. Reilly in Walk Hard and performed “Mother Nature’s Son” standing two feet in front of Paul McCartney at the White House.
White is also a 12-time Grammy recipient and 33-time nominee, a sitting board member of the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Foundation as well as Nashville’s Gender Equality Council, co-recorder of the only official Bond theme song ever done as a duet (“Another Way To Die” with Alicia Keys), and co-owner of the Warstic baseball bat company, based out of Dallas, Texas. An experimental, endurance-minded antiquary from both the future and the past, you’d imagine him to be every bit as comfortable with Arthurian swords as Andromeda spaceships. He is Tarzan from an incredibly urban Jupiter, a musical improv genius, and an irreverent idea-incubator making varnish out of tarnish as an inborn practice, not just a musical style, since his earliest days.
Having begun his eccentric career as a madcap Motor City maker-poet who intrinsically understood what could never be bought or sold in music, Jack White is Shakespeare in a skyscraper now. However, he has not in any way shrouded himself in a macabre secret world or subterranean civilization like most of his predecessors who ever made it to this stage of empire ownership. When his own huge details, both physical and creative, finally beat back that “huge unimportant detail” Iggy mentioned for good, White sought to become the power ally of countless other artists he yearned to lend a leg up, and one onto a horse actually going somewhere worthy, not just a nag running the blind, ringed race of the major labels. He can and does now buy everything that matters most to him out of whatever wrongful struggles might quietly kill that thing and uses his love-won liquidity to place said loved thing into the kind of oppositional settings that will feed its soul forever. Add ‘passion preservationist’ to his endlessly impressive resume of rock and rescues.
Besides being the tri-color technician of The White Stripes, the draftsman of the dangerous conversation that is The Raconteurs, and the designer of the dusk in The Dead Weather, Jack White is almost single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of vinyl over the course of the past twenty years, even recently openly challenging the major labels to reopen their own vinyl factories and match his own personal efforts (and finances) toward meeting the current demand for vinyl production. He has recently launched Jack White Art & Design, a bespoke forum for featuring his integrative, ambidextrous artistic ambitions, and opened the third and final installment of his Third Man record stores in London over the pandemic, having actively blueprinted the site himself over FaceTime. People like White who are their own sacred space do not require anyone’s permission or approval and thus are often berated for the borderless freedom they inhabit and others only wish to. White has been cast as an idyllist for his stance on the value of analog culture and all slower genres of gratification, but, tellingly, only ever by those without his penchant for self-discipline.
As a man who has designed his whole career to showcase that he did not have to work with anybody, it should be of significant interest that Jack White has worked in unimaginably hip, inventive creative partnerships with damn-near everybody. Collaborations of note include those with Jim Jarmusch, Danger Mouse, Michel Gondry, The Rolling Stones, Martin Scorsese, Brendan Benson, The Flaming Lips, Allison Mosshart, Stephen Colbert, Ashley Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, and Electric Six. He is both a rabid cultivator and a ravenous collector of visions. Through the most intensive expression of his own creative concepts, personal style, inherent beliefs, and earned wisdom, he has created a mélange of spaces, both material and mental, expressly for the purpose of promoting the tangible meditations of other artists. Jack will tell you that he is a chivalry unremarkable, alpha-teeth flashing, and the spell of his Tiger Town charm would have you believe him until you re-examine the absolute gallimaufry of bands, buildings, badass women, and beauty-in-general that never would have even been given a first chance at survival, much less a seventh, without his active support and influence. One of the most admirable aspects of his professional career is the manner in which he always uses his extraordinary power for its proper purposes.
Jack White is, above all things, a world builder – and one of a different magnetic dimension entirely. Having money, for him, only meant working harder to make it mean something, to protect his instincts surrounding creative purity, and doubling down on the desire toward not letting the recompense resculpt the rebellion even when he had the clean sleep of knowing he had made every dollar of his fortune the hardest way you can. As a lone jukebox Jonah wailing away deep in the whale belly of a gluttonous industry, he is perpetually striving to strip everything back but what allows him to follow the blues-paved road of his greatest heroes, Son House and Blind Willie McTell. The utopian universe he has fostered since founding Third Man Records in 2001 is a rheological Narnia of primary colors wherein he is both Aslan and Edmund Pevensie. Third Man today is as much a Renaissance guild of chameleonic, encyclopedic journeymen as it is the most sought-after label in modern music.
Jack White famously has as little time for what has replaced history as a certain winged writer here you may by now deplore or adore for the same aggressively expressed attitude. Even the placements he has chosen for all three of his Third Man Records locations reference his stiff-upper-lip Detroit upbringing and continued earn-it ethos. The flagship store resides in the Cass Corridor where he went to school, once the bohemian-ghetto home of the MC5 and a neighborhood to which White belonged by birth but still had to confront naysayers who claimed he was ‘gentrifying’ when he set up shop there and helped Shinola do the same. The Nashville locus was one of the first new businesses in an area of the city many native entrepreneurs had not dared venture storefronts into yet, and sits directly across from the local homeless shelter. The London Third Man is in the West End, on Marshall Street in the heart of SoHo, an environment historically associated with the fashion-forward Carnaby crew and the current hub of the English film industry.
A Body of Work Built On a Chassis of Mettle
In order to be a lawless cowboy on any kind of global scale in the shuttered sideshow of the music industry today – especially one who is also the benevolent sheriff of all surrounding sounds – the first thing any artist must do is get some altitude, and early, so that he or she can better see the true lay of the land beneath the beat and thus exert at least a modicum of control over what gets planted in the fields bearing his or her own name. The more lucrative that name is perceived to be by the time of anyone’s first album, the harder that independent height is to achieve. As fate and fairytales would have it, it was not Jack White’s first album, or even his second, that drew the Cyclopsian circle of the culture vultures. It was, like all principal things in his life, his third that brought the big corporate slaughter-hounds baying for his blood.
Fortunately, boys and bands born and raised in Detroit tend to wield a biological barrier against the bigotry of the buck. Take it from Dan Gilbert, the investor-philanthropist with plenty of bucks to burn, who opined, “I think Detroit is where muscle meets brains.” If money-shakers turn your moral stomach, have it from a soul pioneer who had difficulties in that arena throughout his whole life and career yet sustained all the internal riches of the world, Wilson Pickett: “Detroit. My lord, what a place.” The comedian Bob Saget, known throughout the notoriously vicious standup world for his unflinchingly graphic material and steely delivery before stony audiences, succinctly and incisively said, “Detroit is different.” And it is.
For these and so many other characterful reasons, Jack White was not tempted to any of the lurid lures left out everywhere by Big Daddy Bullion once none other than John Peel memorably informed the uninitiated listening world that it best pay attention to The White Stripes. Instead – by picking his battles and unapologetically winning them – he became the backstreet baron of his own brand, business strategy, and burgeoning bank account during the final period of time wherein doing so to anything more than a nominal degree was to be possible in rock-n-roll. Even in this, an observation of something as standard as his band’s signing, Jack White straddles eras evenly: he is both the last and the first of his kind with regard to what he has built out of his initial boost.
One could look to Jack White’s entire oeuvre as an exercise in perfecting the execution of Detroit’s difference alone. His career is the unofficial manual on how hurrying against yourself is not just the only way to get anywhere metaphysical and supernatural in music, but also the one proven path to artistic autocracy in an industry that long ago forgot how some things are about taste, not price. Stand Jack White up next to the other homebrew icons of “the Paris of the Midwest” and this truism cranks its multifaceted accuracy up several thumbed-nose notches: Madonna, Ted Nugent, Aretha Franklin, Kid Rock, Marshall Mathers, Francis Ford Coppola, Lily Tomlin, Diana Ross. Not one of these legends has ever or would ever resign themselves to complacency or the “good enough” failure-kudos favored by the work-shy shiftless, and every one of them is the patent-holding inventor of the niche they would come to personify. Detroit people understand that greatness is only ever born where the gears meet the grind. By the time The White Stripes formally confirmed their conclusion, White was already serving as the backbone and ballast of two other soon-to-be skyward bands.
With first solo outing Blunderbuss (QRO review) under his belt by April of 2012, followed by 2014’s Lazaretto (which broke the record for highest first-week vinyl sales in recorded history), and then Boarding House Reach (QRO review) as of 2018, White’s unrelenting emphasis on craftsmanship – as evidenced in his partiality to razorblade editing and less obvious long-form lodestones – has led to every single one of his solo records debuting at Number 1 on the Billboard 200 Charts. Singular as they all are, they each evince that right-kind-of-opportunist’s élan that is pure and exclusively Motown. Having on this latest record, and for the first time in his career, pushed himself to apply the same grassroots science to digital recording techniques, White has emerged with the most provocative message on immediacy he has made to date: that if you do even the digital things in life with his anti-soundbite kind of anarchy, the result elevates both the slick and the sandpaper elements of those things, like a “fur” coat made from surplus shoelaces.
Fear of the Dawn
Recorded in its entirety at Third Man Recording Studio in Nashville, Fear of the Dawn launches out at the listener like a scalded cat. White seems to have asked, “What would it sound like if a nuclear apocalypse could be light on its feet?,” lighter being something he himself surely felt after fasting for five straight days in literal Kalamazoo solitude when he wrote most of this record and its pending summer sibling. The polar opposite of those creatives who require breakneck quantities of cocaine and champagne, White nearly always goes full ascetic when it is his time to compose, sequestering himself in total isolation in undisclosed locations, willfully without connectivity to anything but the hurdles he has set for his own mind.
“Taking Me Back” has the honor of being the first tune on Fear of the Dawn and the last song on Entering Heaven Alive, the breathing bookends of these albums’ biaxial, shared soul. The Fear of the Dawn version is all frenzied by its own violence and the Entering Heaven Alive version is a forest of candles, little Lyrids lain across an artfully gritty sidewalk. White plays every instrument that you hear on both recorded versions, even consciously committing the cardinal recording sin of overdubbing his drums last. Every chord and rhythm change in “Taking Me Back” was originally intended by White to be its own song. The final one eventually became “Fear of the Dawn,” Track 2 on its titular record, and one that the “Taking Me Back” that triumphed bleeds seamlessly into.
“Fear of the Dawn” the song is something hydraulic, some airborne beast living against its will in dolphin frequencies, and has the controlled drop of a streetwalker. Thrashing with skittering, staticky riffs that sound like they’re falling down steps three at a time, it begins with the string-sliding screech of a raven, the same raven that appears in ivory form on Track 3 of Fear of the Dawn the album, and serves as the recurrent image tying many of the tour visuals for this record together. Underworld birds have been a trope for White several times before. He conjured the seedier side of Poe in The White Stripes’ “Little Bird” and appeared with a vulture over his shoulder on the cover of Blunderbuss.
Track 3, “The White Raven” is a bumpity and bass-heavy book of barracks imagery, unusually (for White) composed on a synthesizer, and whose only obvious ornithological image is of a snow-fallen black raven. It gives a beady, sideways bird-eye to notions of camouflaging and soldiering, as well as an almost talk-box break where, in reality, it is only White’s foot and his Triplegraph Octave pedal squawking such unholy truths. Early favorite “Hi-De-Ho” (w/ Q-Tip) is the end result of another of White’s innumerable alliances. Having worked on the last A Tribe Called Quest album in 2016, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, he had no trouble securing his buddy Q-Tip’s participation on this trippy-trim little track, which fascinatingly samples Cab Calloway’s immortal “Minnie The Moocher”. The whole sonic spirit of this song sounds announced in a glorious fuzz, as if over a tannoy.
Though there will surely be plenty of people who do not pause long enough to process it, “Eosophobia” is the actual title track of this record, the word meaning, “morbid fear of dawn or daylight.” Illustrating the exceptional level of musicianship White perennially promotes and surrounds himself with, this song was given its punk-reggae recording birth completely live in the room. Many of Jack’s most famous guitar riffs sound as if they are bellycrawling behind you, sneaking up like a pretty predator and preparing to death-pounce. “Eosophobia” instantiates this trend better than most. Enigmatic lyrical witticisms such as, “The sun goes down when I tell it to / But the sun comes up when it wants to,” are lent the lackadaisical lean of impending peril by the audible sound of drummer Daru Jones clicking his sticks suggestively, White cascading neck-notes to match him, and then a truck stop-style jam that blows out into big, bombastic echoes at the end.
“Into The Twilight” makes a marvelously jigsawed maelstrom of samples from The Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin, and William S. Burroughs (Breakthrough In Grey Room) as it toys with the concept of editing as a vehicle for progress. Burroughs’ line, “When you cut into the present, the future leaks out,” could stand alone as the thematic parable for the record as a whole, while this particular song represents one of the most accessible vantage points from which a new listener can observe the way White never repeats any riff or break in total exactitude. He always flourishes at a slight slant or bends in a different direction on any repeated progression he makes above or below the root melody.
Where Fear of the Dawn is spare, it is so for the sake of being shapely and symbolic, like a Monkey Puzzle tree. When it guffaws in clamorous thunder tones, this is to remind you that he is still the garage king-balladeer of old. Like all things associated with White, Fear of the Dawn revolves around intertwined themes of tint and time whilst simultaneously serving to proactively encourage the listener toward remembrance of obsolete, out-of-fashion things like skirring risographs, kinescopes, and operettas. While the record does astutely address a threaded leitmotif of particolored fear, it also speaks to every other emotion tending to come wrapped in a clenched fist. In places, this album rumbles past as if it had black lava rocks beneath its bass lines. In others, it becomes snow falling off a hemlock.
One such pianissimo place is the thirty-second interlude which is “Dusk”, an atmospheric instrumental sonata that sounds like geese flying away south for winter. “Dusk” is the first song on Side 2 of the vinyl version of Fear of the Dawn and provides a cochlear chillout cellar for the listener just before the next section of the album. Brief though it is, “Dusk” is a neat little spot to notice the wondrous way White weaves in predictive melodic remembrances. Close listeners will recognize this precise melody again in “Morning, Noon and Night”, which features Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard. Another magical Michigan guitar player with his own serpentine scroll of serious accomplishments in professional music, Denison can now add the honor of being the first person to offer a guitar solo on any of Jack White’s albums that Jack himself did not play or write. This song contains the additional Easter egg of the line, “I might lie and tell you we should take our time / But you have to understand that it’s in short supply,” a brilliantly tucked-under allusion to the title of the tour, White’s merciless creative momentum, and the brevity of life all at one go.
“What’s the Trick?” has an attitude reminiscent of a classic bar brawler’s way of asking any question: as a flaming arrow of accusation, of course. Once again responsible for every instrument you will hear on this track, White has fashioned the audio equivalent of a Bayeux Tapestry in employing the octave nature of Third Man’s boisterous Bumble Buzz pedal in tandem with the actual recorded crank of a friend’s motorcycle to set the rhythm of the song. Could there be anything more Detroit than that? “What’s the Trick?” then glides atop a hydroplaning riff that mirrors the sliding of the morals and manners White is decrying in the lyrics.
Meanwhile, further bespeaking White’s practice of purposeful plaiting, “Eosophobia (Reprise)” is constructed out of the good ten minutes or more of bumper selection playing White and his unbelievably gifted band had left over from the jam sessions that produced the first “Eosophobia.” Always itching to highlight the talents of his friends – especially where doing so coincides with ingenious sonic experimentation – White had everybody hit their own instrument’s echo pedal at once, spontaneously discovering what can only be described as direct doubling in the process. The outcome is a song that travels like an eighties instrumental if Joe Satriani and Steve Vai were good-naturedly parrying one another but stays bright enough in some places to have been one of Boston’s sunshine-suffused bangers.
Through all of this, Fear of the Dawn once again denotes just how well White grasps every grotto of the American grotesque. Take even a swift stock of the things he outlines, protests, and simply points to in United States culture and you will quickly realize that neither William Mortensen nor Nathanael West has a single thing on him. Forced-hand scenarios in recording and in life have forever been Jack White’s signature forte and the well from which he has unfailingly drawn something as ancient as Batroun. Access the matte truth of the blues through the unlikely Looking Glass of cartoon colors. Move the pedal just a step out of reach on stage. Invent your parachute as you fall down the sky. Don’t work smarter; work like your grandparents did – tirelessly, respectably, and like your life depends on it (because it always does…even, and perhaps especially, once you have ‘made it’).
His is an interdisciplinary approach built directly from the spirit-sand of his birth city. Fear of the Dawn is a Detroit record through and through, but one like eternally displaced Nashville boys like Waylon Jennings or Charlie Daniels might have written – working men who wore the manifest symbolism of the American bootstrap mentality like it was a buffalo totem. The resplendent repercussion of this non-automated way of being, as an artist and as a man, is a kind of flummoxed poetic testimony in everything White does that has now branched out to become a Masonic folklore all his own. Lyrically, White orbits within his own short-sentence intuition and the enviable ability to consistently write chords with no cattle guards. Forward-thinking, backward-looking songs seem to defer to him, and almost automatically take on an alien anatomy under the spiky gaze of his topaz counterintelligence.
Many visionaries in Jack White’s category throughout history find themselves, at some stage, creatively handicapped by the general public’s inability to fully comprehend what they are doing. This is where White’s Motor City mindset and Mach 10 drive, once again, apprehends the potential problem before it becomes one. By the very nature of his simplistic, archetypal approach, he has always been able to make the exact record he wanted to make, teeming with all of his un-haltered talents, and still scaled every commercial alp without compromising even a vapor of artistic or personal integrity – and with his evangelical zeal for what some are not alert enough to realize are not “minor details” fully intact. Precious few human beings can be imperial without being imperious in this way.
Jack White has become not just a colossus and connoisseur of worthwhile traditions, but a master at reversing, inverting, subverting, and reinventing them. Fear of the Dawn effortlessly succeeds at all of the above inside fresh and far-flung frameworks that convey the cagey champion at its center in a new spectrum of chromatics reaching much deeper than the Hades-blue signaling your eye to it all on the packaging – a blue with a tone and meaning that calls to mind the opening lines of David Foster Wallace’s essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again:” I have learned that there are actually intensities of blue beyond very, very bright blue. As a younger man who once worriedly wondered how he would ever get there– ‘there’ being the gospel validity of the Delta blues – White’s choice of figurative palette for Fear of the Dawn is allegorical on more than one level as well.
The Supply Chain Issues Tour
Of all the essential items that became and remain hard to come by due to the COVID bottleneck, Jack White’s imaginative impulses were not affected in the slightest. True to form, what others experienced as an enforced limitation, he turned into the promise of a pushed boundary for himself. There is a fair point to be made that White’s unblemished personal history of making a hagiography out of self-imposed halting points prepared him all his life for making the most of whatever restrictions the found time and extended-play ennui of the pandemic foisted on those less accustomed to making something out of nothing.
In making things intentionally hard on himself, he has made himself observably easy within the alchemical fluid of celebrity and, more to the point, in the twisting tornado-task of hearing his own ear accurately within the amniotic boom chamber of the creative process, no matter who is setting the compulsory margins. Distraction by destruction is for spindlier artists that nurse a fear of internal mirrors. Conversely, creation born of deconstruction is nothing short of anthropomorphic oil painting done in one’s own blood. In this second medium, Jack White has long been as good as Detroit’s own da Vinci. The Supply Chain Issues Tour is where you get to see him become the Vesuvian Vitruvian Man, purveying highly combustible sonic sketches of sexual-abandon sounds done with sensual fury, and all mapped out before you in unlearnable hours.
Atlanta certainly felt fantastically fetishized by the privilege of being the focal point for a trio of sequential Supply Chain Issues shows held at its celebrated Tabernacle venue wherein White vacillated between a setlist of 22 and 24 songs each night and repeated that setlist’s exact table of contents never. The only other city slated to be graced with a triad of performances on this tour is Paris in mid-July, with even White’s dual hometowns of Detroit and Nashville getting only two nights, alongside dual-night sets in Los Angeles and London. These three shows were like a trilogy of jewels set in a diadem White was pouring into the mold, live on stage every night, and then shaping right in front of you with his own forge. Even his choice of opening bands was meticulous, methodical, and emblematic: one from Los Angeles, one from Oklahoma, and one from Nashville, all corners of this vast country thereby concisely covered.
Night 1 | 4.26.22
If you have never seen or heard of L.A.’s own Starcrawler, treat yourself to the female, raccoon-eyed riot grrrl version of Jim Morrison that is their frontwoman this same second, no matter what you are doing. Starcrawler shredded through a sweat-flung set with the kind of slinking ferocity you’d imagine the animals that are said to have fled Helike in droves, days before the titan tsunami of your history textbooks stole that ageless city from all but archaeologists, would have had when they knew what the humans didn’t yet. There is nothing ‘soft grunge’ or lacking animal instincts about Arrow de Wilde, and for this, we must all give hearty thanks. Everything from her rat’s-nest mermaid hair to the razored rags ravishing her rail-thin figure smirks a well-meant middle finger at what shamefully passes for punk today.
Clothes are a considerable signifier of a great deal in Jack White’s world as well. All Third Man men wear a dashing uniform consisting of classy variations on a tailored black suit, bolero tie, and bowler-like hat. Between the opening bands and the Detroit Dawntreader, one such Jack-clad DJ spins some of the finest forgotten 1980s house, electro, and hip-hop your vintage brain will be so happy to realize it did not totally overwrite.
When Jack himself shortly thereafter vaults out on stage like a hellbent hartebeest, his own clothes are a pronounced pointing finger at the zebra theme running right the way through Fear of the Dawn. His zebra-striped button-down and white leather Duckie Dale shoes represented the first frame of a triptych of gesturing garments that will include – over the course of the next three nights – a seal-sleek all-black ensemble with the definitive white leather belt made historic by all three kings of the Garage Rock Revival (White, Nicholls, Casablancas), and a black-and-white striped t-shirt with black jeans and white Doc Martens. Said to be an animal metaphorically associated with balance, individuality, and the power of illusion, the zebra’s zigzagging zodiac of meaning marshals coherently not just with White’s messaging across Fear of the Dawn, but his total artistic trajectory.
“Shedding My Velvet”, the final track on Fear of the Dawn and the second to last song White will play on this first night, may hold the lyrical decoder ring for this album and tour’s fixation on that four-footed, anti-geometric beast: “Think horses not zebras when you hear the sound of hooves on the ground / The noblesse oblige you sense is mine / When I convey my lines.” Intended on the record to move the energy over to its forthcoming July counterpart, “Shedding My Velvet” live devastates the listener into an understanding of the two sides of lots of things with its argumentative riff, in quarrel with itself. When you hear White intone, “Better to illuminate than merely to shine / You say this all the time,” sloshing liquid night-clouds flanking the giant columns of III projected on the screen behind him, the innate rightness in both the black thoughts and white feelings of this song will reveal themselves in a special way.
If you have seen Jack White perform in any incarnation of his career, you will already know that he needs a devilish drummer to lunge to. It is in mid-air during those dives and leaps that he always finds his best-fretted feet. Daru Jones, a revered Detroit-bred percussionist with miles of street cred and known for his indelible work with local lords Slum Village and Black Milk, has a distinct drum identity designed for receiving and then shoving back (and thrice as hard) any and every rhythmic grenade White chucks at him during these unscripted music-moments. Those two together are a spellbinding show unto themselves. By the time White closes with “Seven Nation Army” and thus both the floor and every voice in the building is lending pattern-support to the melody, the behemoth, blue saber-toothed tiger on the back-screen that is advancing in panting-mouthed 3D toward the audience could be White, Jones, or anyone else present to witness all of this sharp furor.
Night 1 Setlist
- Taking Me Back
- Fear of the Dawn
- The White Raven
- Apple Blossom
- Love Interruption
- If I Die Tomorrow
- Hotel Yorba
- Hello Operator
- Just One Drink
- Temporary Ground
- Love Is Selfish
- Fell In Love With a Girl
- What’s the Trick?
- Offend In Every Way
- Freedom At 21
- Catch Hell Blues
- Steady, As She Goes
- Sixteen Saltines
- Shedding My Velvet
- Seven Nation Army
Night 2 | 4.27.22
JD McPherson has Oklahoma’s earnestness and unparalleled 1950s Americana pouring out of him at a Followill factor. His songs are little four-minute massacres of doo-wop mixed with dirtwave, and full of cosseting Romantic miscreants that will beguile you as reflexively as his own demonstratively antique tastes. His band is mechanized-tight and he wears his rappelling story-songs like a feathered visor, celebrating every imperfection in the vinyl of his own voice and taking you, for all the world, back to a black-and-white time when music on television didn’t suck. It is no work at all to see why his aural authenticity would speak to Jack’s A Prairie Home Companion and Austin City Limits sensibilities. Don’t miss the chance to have him make short order out of the Hee-Haw-hued halls of your own heart too.
The second night of White’s Tabernacle residency – surely due in some part to its balancing on so many chest-serrating ballads – brings a decidedly muted hysteria. There is a subdued and somber setting on the set, but one angled toward uplifting and thought-provoking reverie, never explicitly sorrow. White strikes a correspondingly pensive pose this night. Having leisurely walked around the city a bit earlier in the afternoon, he shares his own interpretation of the old saw about the famous antebellum porches freckling the face of Atlanta. Talking of the specific way these sacred southern spaces support the sort of daydreaming that serves as the prerequisite for both songs and self-salvation, he smilingly banters, “I don’t need the house; I just want the porch.”
Though he did perform it the night before, “Love Is Selfish”, the only currently released single off the imminent Entering Heaven Alive, takes on a particularly prayerful posture during Night 2 in Atlanta. Juxtaposed against White’s high-pitched, otherworldly bird screams in the speedier songs, these dynamic downshifts carry a captivating cachet. The digital backdrop is mood-altered as well, now presenting spinning noir comics that look like Gina Higgins paintings and an elephantine indigo moon that oscillates into an orb, becomes a ball, and then smokes away only to reappear and repeat its transfixing transmogrification. The changing costumes of the cyclical sphere matched those of the legion of lookers-on who had donned blue wigs or cerulean hairspray in solidarity with their soiree’s host.
The inward-turned troposphere in which this second show took place provided a uniquely perfect position from which to spotlight the inordinate and engrossing abilities of keyboardist and vocalist, Quincy McCrary. A transplanted-from-L.A. ATLien Grammy-getter in his own right, McCrary was deservedly a crowd favorite all three evenings. Ensconced with ease like the synthesizer sovereign he is within his dizzying horse-shoe of every conceivable kind of keys – including a Hammond B3 and a Wurlitzer – he made his substantial touring and songwriting experience elegantly obvious in each and every song.
Night 2 Setlist
- Taking Me Back
- Fear of the Dawn
- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
- You Don’t Understand Me
- Love Is Selfish
- If I Die Tomorrow
- Hotel Yorba
- Missing Pieces
- Freedom At 21
- I’m Shakin’ (Little Willie John cover)
- What’s The Trick?
- Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me?
- The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
- Love Interruption
- We’re Going To Be Friends
- I Cut Like a Buffalo
- Sixteen Saltines
- Ball and Biscuit
- Icky Thump
- Carolina Drama
Night 3 | 4.28.22
Because they had not played a live show in over 14 years prior to reuniting in advance of being asked out on this tour, the presence and performance of Nashville’s beloved Be Your Own Pet could have stood as the reason for going out to Night 3 by itself. Jemima Pearl is still the gemstone of a growling girl she always was. She and the rest of the Be Your Own Pet bunch incited the most crowd excitement, by a mile, of all three outstanding openers accompanying Jack on this tour and it was clear that this is a band that has been sorely missed. Hopefully, a new dawn the magnitude of supporting Fear of the Dawn will preface a more permanent reignition of their praiseworthy prowess.
Though he had not remotely needed to gather force or momentum seeing as how he’d come out the gate on Tuesday with twice the unstoppable velocity of the Dolan Fire in Big Sur, by Night 3, Jack is well and truly jacked. The audience present in attendance this night was treated to the live debut of “That Was Then, This Is Now,” track 9 off Fear of the Dawn and a toothsome tune White unreservedly admits has Detroit garage rock deliberately studded into its very riff, in a calculated salute to genre-defining D-Town demigods like The Hentchmen, The Go, and Rocket 455. Its tempo terrain is tilted as well, seeming to whir at a parabolic pace, one electrical ellipsis after another, yet infused in all its oval bends with the same breed of brotherly lambency of the S.E. Hinton novel with which it shares its name.
It is likewise Night 3 before your supposedly detail-deranged documentarian here realizes that the statue of the White-inspired boy on stage, synonymous with his drawn image on the cover of Fear of the Dawn, is there to be sung into – a mind-bending mannequin microphone. It must be said: how delectably Jack White. Equally edible on the back end of this chapter of charged, changeling concerts were the bottom-heavy bruisings brought by bassist Dominic Davis. One more Southwest Detroit dynamo, Davis’ background in the classical study of the upright bass as well as his shared matriculation at Cass Technical High, where White likewise went to school, were on vivid display.
White and Davis exchange missile-laden musical messages in a closed-caption conlang only they seem to be able to read, much less translate to timbres. Having worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Brian Setzer, on through to Pearl Jam and Robert Plant, Davis is by no means any stranger to the highest level of musicianship in the world, but there is something about his union with White that brings out the phantom bells of an underwater city in his scandalously solid, fastidious playing. The line of horizontally scrolling white-moons-turning-black that run like a phasic ticker-tape behind them reflects and seems to emulate the subtle sea changes these two titans transfer to one another. As both Daru Jones and Dominic Davis have been contributing company members in White’s touring bands since their stints in the Blunderbuss Buzzards, you’d likely have far less struggle in pulling a limpet from a rock with your bare hands than in any attempt to pull their groove apart. Good luck finding a more gorgeously unyielding rhythm section in any existing rock band.
Night 3 Setlist
- Taking Me Back
- Fear of the Dawn
- The White Raven
- Black Math
- Trash Tongue Talker
- Temporary Ground
- Love Is Selfish
- Love Is Blindness (U2 cover)
- Outlaw Blues (Bob Dylan cover)
- That Black Bat Licorice
- That Was Then (This Is Now)
- Little Bird
- The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
- Just One Drink
- You Don’t Understand Me
- High Ball Stepper
- Fell In Love With a Girl
- My Doorbell
- I Cut Like a Buffalo
- What’s The Trick?
- I’m Slowly Turning Into You
- Seven Nation Army
Many corrosive critics who do not understand his background have mistook Jack White’s prolific output for a form of paternalism when it was and is anything but. As Mick Collins of White-Stripes-inspiring The Gories and a great personal favorite of White’s said of the Detroit scene, “You had to make your own something to do! If you were only in one band there, you weren’t considered a serious musician, you weren’t in the thick of things.” Long ago having sealed his celestial station in the annals of rock-n-roll history, no one could fairly say that White was ever anything but right in the thick of things, and usually holding court there because he himself had created the thick of things out of thin air with his own hands earlier that week.
There is an Elephant-sized portion of Jack White’s always-ascending popularity that has occurred because his songs are built like sedans even when they are sportsters. His ride-or-die passengers sit in the bounteous seat beside his unpredictable wheel, eagerly looking over the dashboard to see where he will steer next, but there is plenty of room in the car for everybody else who just likes the paint job or the sound of the motor too. Never before White has a rough-handed working-class temperament gelled so naturally with the bravura abstractions of a quixotic radical.
For much of the transversive cultural resets of the 1960s, Detroit was the one stopover hippie hitchhikers, bus-bound folkies, and nomadic intellectuals would make when cross-country be-bopping between San Francisco and New York. It is a city still fabled far and wide for producing bands about primitive man. Likewise, there is a Detroit, and indeed an Old World America, that Jack White takes with him any place and every place he goes. It is a mythological and yet utterly tangible dreamopolis of all the things that make that city, this country, and him the gold-ingot locales they are.
Everyone who has lived it rather than just listening to it knows that rock-n-roll is an advantageously derelict factory with no foreman, run entirely by blood oaths and pox bottles. Perhaps it is because he took the street sacrament so early combined with his domestic familiarity with manufactory plants, shop floors, mills, and not-junk-to-him yards that makes Jack White such an instinctual chronographer of a defiantly dirty dimension known for defying clocks.
Whatever the reason, it won’t just be because you are (for once) without a time-telling/time-thieving mobile device in your hands that you forget minutes and hours if you go see Jack on this tour. It will mostly be because the experience of him in any live setting has its own hidden latitude and visceral longitude, like a clubhouse billet only he knows the password and secret door for. He shares this speakeasy space freely under the sole hopeful expectation that listeners let it liberate their own unspoken vernacular in some way, even if for just that fleeting moment. Borrowing and B-bending from the aforementioned stylings of Mr. Pickett – as nearly every serious rocksmith must eventually – it is fitting afterward to exit back out to the banality of the ‘hands-free’ world with only one phrase upon your lips: “Jack White. My lord, what a place.”
The next leg of The Supply Chain Issues Tour picks up in Irving, Texas on May 23, and you can enjoy the empyrean experience of Entering Heaven Alive with Jack White as of July 22, 2022.
-photos: David James Swanson