Jack White at Red Rocks, 8/8/12
"There's not enough oxygen here," Jack White said about half an hour into his set last night at Red Rocks. "I got to keep telling my lungs to breathe, and I haven't talked to my lungs like this in a long time. We're going to make it." Despite the lack of oxygen, it didn't seem to slow down White or his six-piece, all-female band, the Peacocks, who dug into material with a fervor from White's other bands and most of his solo effort, Blunderbuss, over the course of his hour and forty-five minute set.
While some people lament the death of the White Stripes, it seems like the breakup might have been necessary for Jack White to move forward. He formed the Raconteurs and Dead Weather while the White Stripes hadn't yet officially pulled the plug, but those two projects hinted at how broad White's scope could be. Blunderbuss took things in a slightly different direction, drawing from country, R&B and gospel elements.
When you look at the set as a whole and the variety from song to song, it's easy to see how wide White's range is, how great his guitar playing is and, well, some folks even consider the guy a genius.
As Blunderbuss's "I'm Shakin'" played on the house system, the six girls, each wearing white dresses, came out and started an intro jam with the drummer thundering away on kit. Once White came out on the darkened stage, the band kicked out a vigorous take on "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" while a floor light shone on White and cast a giant shadow on the white screen behind the group.
As White and the Peacocks turned out several White Stripes tunes, some of the interpretations were quite different than the originals, namely "Fell in Love With a Girl," which was bluesy and unhurried, although there were moments where it felt like Carla Azar was about to kick in a fast beat on the chorus. "We're Going to be Friends," with White on acoustic guitar, wasn't too far from the original, with Azar adding a slight backbeat and Brooke Waggoner adding some piano fills. "I'm Slowly Turning into You" was steeped in a thick, dirty, organ-fueled groove and the fast countrified "Hotel Yorba" was energetic as hell.
White and company threw a few Dead Weather and Raconteurs cuts into the mix, like "Top Yourself," "Broken Boy Soldier" and "Steady, As She Goes," but close to half of the set was made up Blunderbuss material. Singer Ruby Amanfu, who laid down soulful vocals throughout the show, sounded especially good on her duet with White on "Love Interruption" and on gospel-inspired "Take Me With You When You Go," which also featured some fiddle work by Lillie Mae Rische.
While it wasn't always easy to hear pedal steel player Maggie Björklund, who's from Denmark, she added a country edge to some cuts, like "Blunderbuss." Bassist Catherine Popper, who's played with Ryan Adams and Grace Potter, held the fort down on stand-up bass for most part and switched to electric bass on a few cuts.
A lot of songs in the first set packed a lot of punch, but White and the Peacocks really stepped it up during the encore, ripping through "Sixteen Saltines" and "The Hardest Button to Button" and "Seven Nation Army," with the crowd humming the main riff with fists raised. Ending on "Goodnight, Irene," popularized by Leadbelly, was an ideal way to close out the night.
Personal Bias: While it's cool that White is touring with two groups -- one all-male and on all-female -- it was great to see White by flanked by a bunch of gals who know how to get down to business musically.
By the Way: Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three did a decent job getting folks warmed up with their rootsy, gypsy jazz flavored set.
Random Detail: White joked that the walls of Red Rocks were painted to look like the outdoors.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre - 8/8/12
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Canon /John the Revelator
Fell in Love With a Girl
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
Take Me With You When You Go
I'm Slowly Turning into You
We're Going to be Friends
Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
Broken Boy Soldier
Blue Blood Blues
Ball and Biscuit
Freedom at 21
The Hardest Button to Button
Steady, As She Goes
Seven Nation Army
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