The Michigan-bred icon made sure his Grand Rapids debut at 20 Monroe Live on Saturday was brimming with spontaneity and exuberance. Read the review, browse the photo gallery.
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During a recent promotional appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Jack White readily acknowledged, “I’ve never been in a band this loud before.”
That’s saying a lot for the driving force behind such robust outfits as The White Stripes and The Dead Weather.
And after White and his band uncorked their loud and luscious spectacle for a sold-out, phone-free crowd at Grand Rapids’ 20 Monroe Live on Saturday, it’s safe to say he’s never been in a band this musically unconventional before either.
Saturday’s show was as dizzying as White’s new album, “Boarding House Reach,” with elements of garage rock, hip hop and funk courtesy of longtime bassist and lifelong friend Dominic John Davis and a diverse new band featuring drummer Carla Azar (Autolux), keyboardists Neal Evans (Soulive) and Quincy McCrary (Unknown Mortal Orchestra).
Mostly, though, it was rock ‘n’ roll, and all of it was pure Jack White: unpredictable, invigorating and intoxicating, from the instrumental rock salvo of “Battle Cry” and The White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” to the anthemic “Seven Nation Army” that wrapped up the evening. In between, White did showcase some songs from his new album, “Boarding House Reach,” but not as many as might be expected.
AN IDEAL ENVIRONMENT FOR WHITE AND HIS BAND
And unlike the band’s homecoming tour opener Thursday at the much larger Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, this stop at the 2,600-capacity 20 Monroe Live jettisoned some big-production accouterments, turning the two-hour-plus affair into “more like a club show,” according to Davis.
That also put the focus squarely on White and his transfixing, often-electrifying music, which certainly was all right with White and the uber-exuberant West Michigan fans who were getting to see him in Grand Rapids for the first time (as “Jack White”). Many lined up starting early Saturday, with the the line winding around the block in the hours before doors opened.
They were also getting to see him and his band in their ideal environment, amid a totally impromptu evening of music.
As Davis put it after the show: “Arena shows are great, but they’re sometimes trying for a band like ours where nothing is pre-planned. We don’t have a set list and don’t know what song we’re even starting with. Jack came up playing clubs and loves that environment. There’s a new style of venue popping up, much like tonight, that are essentially large clubs. It’s a perfect mix of large and small, and are perfect for us.”
It also suits that “phone-free” thing – with White requiring fans to lock their cellphones in special Yondr pouches during the show – a refreshing, if a bit initially jarring, change from the usual concert vibe and appropriately matched with White’s penchant for everything vintage/retro. Frankly, by the time opening act Mattiel launched into its wildly entertaining, retro-hued rock, the whole phone thing (which went remarkably smoothly) was completely forgotten anyway.
More than anything, Saturday’s show was all about embracing live music as something amorphous, molded on the spur of the moment for fans who appreciate spontaneity — rock ‘n’ roll for the New Millennium.
The driving force, said Davis, is that “music is a living thing. The audience is as much a part of it as we are.” It was living robustly and extemporaneously Saturday at 20 Monroe Live.
So, can Jack White single-handedly save rock ‘n’ roll?
After Saturday’s Grand Rapids tour stop, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes.’
PHOTO GALLERY: Jack White at 20 Monroe Live
Photos by David James Swanson
SET LIST: Jack White at 20 Monroe Live
Courtesy of Setlist.fm
1. Battle Cry
2. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
5. Why Walk a Dog?
6. Fell in Love With a Girl
7. Ice Station Zebra
8. Blue Orchid
9. Hello Operator
10. Over and Over and Over
11. Everything You’ve Ever Learned
12. Trash Tongue Talker
13. Hypocritical Kiss
14. Freedom at 21
15. Broken Boy Soldier
16. Icky Thump
17. Steady, as She Goes
19. Little Bird
20. Seven Nation Army
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC