Jack White At The Mayan
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By Steve Baltin
Jack White has been called everything from a guitar hero to the last rock star. A friend at the nine-time GRAMMY winner's sold-out show at The Mayan theater in downtown L.A. on June 11 told a story of having seen someone urinate themselves at The Fonda Theatre show the night before, they were so excited.
Based on the texts, social media posts and the clamoring for tickets for these three sold-out L.A. dates in honor of the release of his new solo album, Lazaretto, the story is believable. There are some people who swear White is rock and roll in 2014.
White isn't just rock and roll, though. He is an A-plus student of music history. He and his five-piece band distilled more than a century of American music into the stew of blues, rock, R&B, and country that comprised his nearly two-hour set.
Regardless of genre, at the core of everything White did was the threat of impending sonic explosion. Just a single smash of a drumstick emerged as the lights went down, then seconds later the band joined in before White came out to a hero's welcome, delivering a guitar assault.
The opening song, the White Stripes' "Icky Thump," got the packed-in throng clapping along and screaming, right through the false guitar solo ending that led into an extended jam.
With a set also drawing from his solo material and work with Dead Weather and the Raconteurs, White showcased his versatility throughout. He threw in some blues undercurrents on "Missing Pieces" and then went softer on Lazaretto's "High Ball Stepper," which started off with an acoustic Led Zeppelin feel a la "Going To California" or "That's The Way," before the volume cranked up to 11 mid-song.
Following "High Ball Stepper," White addressed the fans. "How are we doing Los Angeles?" he asked. Referring to his grueling promotional schedule, he said, "This is our third show today, I think that means this one will be the best."
It likely was the most eclectic show of the day, as White & Co. explored a Caribbean feel on the White Stripes gem "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground," the first song of the night that didn't end with a long coda. Whether he was showing off his remarkable guitar prowess — as he did on arguably the night's centerpiece song, the full-on blues rocker "Top Yourself" — or displaying his songwriting chops on the more traditional format of "Three Women," which found him starting off on keys, or mining a country vibe on "You've Got Her In Your Pocket," White was in complete musical command.
That a singer/songwriter who started his career exploring a hybrid of blues and garage rock and went on to win a GRAMMY for producing country icon Loretta Lynn could offer such diversity is not surprising, but seeing it all blend together in one night was very impressive nonetheless.
"Icky Thump" (the White Stripes)
"High Ball Stepper"
"Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground" (the White Stripes)
"Alone In My Home"
"Hotel Yorba" (the White Stripes)
"Top Yourself" (the Raconteurs)
"You've Got Her In Your Pocket" (the White Stripes)
"Hello Operator" (the White Stripes)
"Weep Themselves To Sleep"
"I'm Slowly Turning Into You" (the White Stripes)
"Steady, As She Goes" (the Raconteurs)
"I Cut Like A Buffalo" (Dead Weather)
"Little Bird" (the White Stripes)
"Sixteen Saltines"/"Devil's Haircut" (Beck cover)
"Seven Nation Army" (the White Stripes)
"Goodnight, Irene" (Lead Belly cover)
(Steve Baltin has written about music for Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Chicago Tribune, AOL, LA Weekly, Philadelphia Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and dozens more publications.)