Hometown boys Jack White and bandmate Dominic John Davis return to Detroit for two sold-out shows next week after setting Chicago ablaze with buzzed-about concerts. (Review, photos)
By John Sinkevics
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Detroit, be forewarned.
Michigan, brace yourselves.
Jack White is coming home, and judging by recent incendiary shows on the current tour behind his chart-topping new “Lazaretto” album, fans at Detroit’s Fox Theatre and Masonic Temple next week can expect a musical experience unlike anything that’s ever graced a rock ’n’ roll stage.
Take Thursday night’s quirky-yet-enthralling affair at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre for a sold-out crowd of 3,900, an artistically impressive 2-hour-and-22-minute, 22-song romp through the sundry splendor of “Lazaretto” and White’s illustrious career, from The White Stripes to The Raconteurs to The Dead Weather to his first solo album, “Blunderbuss.”
The night before, at the Chicago Theatre, the 39-year-old White and his band delivered a much-praised 33-song spectacle that Consequence of Sound described as the longest show of his career and Chicagoist.com called “a balls-to-the-wall display of blues rock virtuosity.” He even brought a fan on stage to help perform a show-ending version of the iconic “Seven Nation Army.”
Only White knows what treasures await Michigan fans in the gritty city that spawned his idiosyncratically creative music. His singularly talented band certainly doesn’t.
“We’re completely void of a set list. Some nights we’re walking out there not even know what song we’re starting with,” bassist and fellow Detroit native Dominic John Davis told Local Spins prior to the Auditorium Theatre show.
“The way Jack works with this band is so unstructured and free, we started to hit our stride with improvisation and knowing where and when to leave space for each other. I think he’s also getting even more daring with us, playing songs we’ve never played and really walking a tightrope up there.”
Thursday’s show was a spellbinding tightrope-walk from start to finish.
The band – Davis, drummer Daru Jones, pedal steel guitarist/violinist Fats Kaplin, violinist/mandolinist Lillie Mae Rische and keyboard player Ikey Owens – erupted with the vehemence of a scorching-hot, beast of a rendition of The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump,” followed by equally thunderous treatments of “Astro” and “Lazaretto.”
What followed was a wholly unpredictable night that included the country twang of “Entitlement,” the spare, simplistic beauty of The White Stripes’ “We’re Going to be Friends,” and a cover of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene,” which wrapped up a one-hour, 10-song “encore” with opening act, guitarist Benjamin Booker, joining in.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN ‘A MOVING TARGET’ SHOW
If fans didn’t know what was coming next, neither did band members, as White whispered song titles into their ears at various points during an evening which had its share of rarely seen moments: the curtains closing after the first song, then opening again to reveal White putting on his shoes and tying his laces (aka, going to work), White playing slide guitar with a wine bottle, and more than once during the show, having both violinists sawing away simultaneously during high-volume rockers.
“Our goal is a moving target at times,” Davis said later.
And they hit that bizarre, beautiful target to create as gripping a rock show as any I’ve ever witnessed.
Bathed in blue lights, the battle-tested, black-clad band operated as rock’s version of a jazz band, improvising brilliantly and adjusting seamlessly on the fly to bruising blues-rockers and rootsy country-folk selections while White cranked out utterly tasteful, tone-perfect licks on guitar.
At various points in the evening, White chatted cleverly about John Lee Hooker (“He only needed three notes to express himself”), Hank Williams (“Hank Williams never sang at the Grand Ole Opry. Can you believe that?”), Bob Marley and the silliness of naming a venue Auditorium Theatre.
“Who started the Chicago fire?” White asked early on. “Put the blame on me, right?”
On Thursday, that fire raged on stage in the form of pure, smart artistry colliding with gut-level, blues-fueled passion. White will bring that rare combination to Detroit on Monday and Wednesday for much-buzzed-about, sold-out shows. (In between them, White will throw out the first pitch at Tuesday night’s Detroit Tigers game.)
It’s also a homecoming for Davis, who attended Detroit’s Cass Tech High School with White and who moved from Lansing to Nashville a couple of years ago to work with his longtime pal.
“I always love playing Detroit. Both shows are blocks from Cass Tech where we went to high school,” says Davis, who also performs regularly with his wife, singer-songwriter Rachael Davis.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my family and showing my hometown what we’ve been up to. Detroiters are proud people and I’m one of them. I am who I am, and do what I do, because of that city.”
So does White, who filters American blues music through Detroit’s raw, rock legacy.
In the Windy City, he demonstrated that with power, style, risk-taking and a measure of musical genius.
Coming home to the Motor City, there’s no telling how much more daring he might get.
PHOTO GALLERY: JACK WHITE AT CHICAGO’S AUDITORIUM THEATRE
Photos by David James Swanson
(Click on photo to enlarge gallery)
Copyright 2014, Spins on Music