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CONCERT RECAP: Jack White @ The Saenger Theatre 6/3/14

Jack White

Jack White at the Saenger 6/3/14  (Photo: Josh Brasted)

After an electrifying performance covering every corner of the rock music spectrum, Jack White once again proved to New Orleans his status as a bona fide guitar god.  The sold-out crowd at The Saenger Theater fed off White’s every move as he tore through his extensive catalog with new interpretations that felt completely fresh while retaining the magic of the originals. From country to metal, White played and sang with a reckless abandon as his crack backing band followed him down every musical avenue he decided to explore. Jack White truly is one of the most influential and innovative popular musicians of the 21st century. In addition to kickstarting the garage rock revival of the early 2000s with The White Stripes, White has released two albums as part of the supergroup The Raconteurs, played drums in doom-blues band The Dead Weather, and started his own record label that has done more to preserve and celebrate recorded music than the entire music industry in recent years.  Just this year he recorded Neil Young’s latest album in a vintage recording booth that was cut directly to vinyl.  As if all this were not enough, White has also been writing and recording some of the best rock songs of his career, on 2011’s Blunderbuss and the upcoming Lazaretto.

Jack White

Jack White at the Saenger 6/3/14  (Photo: Josh Brasted)

White’s guitar playing is a force to be reckoned with (as evidenced in his place alongside Jimmy Page and The Edge in the 2008 film It Might Get Loud), but at Tuesday’s show he kept the solos in check and focused more on creating richly layered songs that sound like natural additions to the great American songbook.  When he did unleash a solo, it was a blast of futuristic, snarling squelches that rarely come out of electric guitars.  The title track off the new album Lazaretto featured high-octane shredding that straddled the line between Tom Morello and Jimi Hendrix, while the rest of the band chugged along through the elaborate time changes.  The White Stripes song “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and The Raconteurs’ “Steady As She Goes” also featured some inspired hard-rock riffing while putting a fresh spin on the modern classics.Jack White

Jack White at the Saenger 6/3/14  (Photo: Josh Brasted)

White’s band, culled from all corners of the country, managed to follow their leader wherever he took them with the precision and emotion that only the best can provide.  Every song featured unique instrumentation as the band incorporated mandolin, fiddle, theremin, and pedal steel with an ease that never felt unnecessary.

Although everyone knows Jack White can wail on guitar, I was surprised by how well he led the band in acoustic driven country tunes as well.  The new song “Temporary Ground” showed that his time in Nashville has fostered a faithful union of country with his hard-rock roots.  Even some White Stripes rockers, like “Hotel Yorba,” got the country treatment (complete with fiddle solos) and sounded just as great as the originals.

By the time White ripped into the famous opening riff of “Seven Nation Army,” the crowd was in the palm of his hand and you could feel him feeding off the energy.  After getting disillusioned with performing during his 2011 tour, the decision to hit theaters this time around seems to have rejuvenated him.

“I can’t play a show in Louisiana without ending with this song,” he remarked as he led the band in a soulful rendition of “Goodnight Irene.”  As the song came to a close, the band and White became silent as the crowd carried the melody for one last refrain.  Although he may be a god, Jack White's connection to the people that revere him keeps him creatively honest and eternally captivating.

Shane Colman writes about music for NolaVie. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on [email protected] and on Instagram at shawncoolman.