“Jesus Christ, is this an NPR convention?” asked White before cutting his set short last Saturday in New York City, three days before he appeared at Montreal’s L’Olympia. Despite technical problems and the negative press detailing White’s ‘diva-tude’ behaviour, he didn’t fail to impress the Montreal crowd.
Eager to see whether White would enter the stage with Los Buzzardos, the all-male band, or The Peacocks, his all-female band, the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted in cheers. White and Los Buzzardos began playing The White Stripes’ song “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.”
The sound immediately electrified fans, but as soon as White walked up to the mic, it became obvious that something was off. The music level was much higher than the vocals, making it virtually impossible to hear White sing.
Throughout the ninety-minute show, White played songs from his entire repertoire. He performed tracks that he wrote with The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, a few songs from his solo debut Blunderbuss, and a song he wrote with Hank Williams, “You Know That I Know.”
But his White Stripe hits proved to be the most memorable. The closing song “Seven Nation Army” was both electric and delicate, causing the most powerful reaction from fans.
It’s no surprise that the crowd was so enthusiastic about White, for he lived up to his reputation and shied away from gimmicks to produce an honest-to-God rock show. This concert was, without a doubt, a riveting musical experience.
Top five Jack White tracks
1. “Seven Nation Army” – White Stripes – Elephant
It is near impossible to have lived through the 2000s and not recognize the signature “Seven Nation Army” guitar riff. It sounds like a bass, but was the sound was actually created by running White’s semi-acoustic guitar through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave.
It was adopted as the unofficial anthem of A.S. Roma, an Italian football club based in Rome, during the 2006 World Cup. Nowadays crowds chant the lyrics to “Seven Nation Army” instead of the traditional Olé, Olé, Olé. “I’m gonna fight ’em off/A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back/They’re gonna rip it off/Taking their time right behind my back.”
2. “Portland, Oregon” – Loretta Lynn & Jack White – Van Lear Rose
After being M.I.A. for about ten years, country pioneer Loretta Lynn returned to the studio with White to release 2004’s Van Lear Rose. White lent vocals, guitar and produced the record — which later won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album. “Portland, Oregon” is the album’s only duet and serves as their ode to the city that bewitched them as touring musicians. Its music video juxtaposes footage of America’s ‘weirdest’ city with White and Lynn performing in a dive bar, and lets you to peer into the relationship the two developed working closely together. “Well I lost my heart it didn’t take no time/But that ain’t all/ I lost my mind in Oregon.”
3. “Icky Thump” – The White Stripes – Icky Thump
“Icky Thump” is the title track of The White Stripes’ sixth and final album. Though it was released in 2007, the pair didn’t announce their separation until 2011. After 13 years together, they called it quits for a “myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band.” The album returned to the heavy, snarky rock found in their earlier releases. The title track, “Icky Thump”, features one of White’s only political references. It deals with immigration to the United States, with both the song’s lyrics and music video detailing how easy it is for someone to cross the border into Mexico, yet near impossible to get back into the US. “White Americans/What? Nothin’ better to do?/Why don’t you kick yourself out/You’re an immigrant too.”
4. “Blunderbuss” – Jack White – Blunderbuss
Though White had been bouncing from one project to the next for a decade, he didn’t release solo material until 2012. And that’s because Blunderbuss was a record that he couldn’t release until now. He told Rolling Stone, “I’ve put off making records under my own name for a long time but these songs feel like they could only be presented under my name. These songs were written from scratch, had nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas.” The title track is a country-rock piano ballad, and appears to address his former bandmate and ex-wife, Meg White. “And you’ll be watching me, girl/Taking over the world/Let the stripes unfurl/Gettin’ rich singin’ poor boy/Poor boy.”
5. “Steady As She Goes” – The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
The Raconteurs formed after White bonded with an old friend, Brendan Benson, in an attic on a hot summer’s day. Cooped up, the pair wrote “Steady As She Goes” and were inspired to make things official. With the addition of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs called themselves “a new band made up of old friends.” This track is White’s most mainstream effort and the closest he has ever gotten to pop. The song has been covered by Adele, Corinne Bailey Rae, Fitz and The Tantrums and was nominated for the Best Rock Performance Grammy in 2007. “Settle for a girl neither up or down/sell it to the crowd that’s gathered round/so steady as she goes.”