Jack White: No BS at The BS

Jack White Concert Poster (Art by Sara Deck)

Jack White performed on June 9th in Toronto at what is now the Budweiser Stage. This tour is to perform and promote his new album release “Boarding House Reach”, which charted #1 in Canada. The album itself is a departure from his usual rock routine. In this album his usual sound is coupled with touches of electronica, and gospel-ish influences. This seems like an intentional mix as a commentary on the state of the music industry, as well as the history of rock that, to put lightly, heavily borrowed or stole from black artists and continues to do so. It seems to also be his Frankenstein experiment, doing things that people expect him not to, and departing from the country sound underlying in “Lazaretto”. “Boarding House Reach” has received mixed reviews among fans and critics alike, but overall the album is powerful in its own right and stays true to Jack White as an artist and rock as a genre.

Some concertgoers were relatively shocked and anxious to find out that this was to be a phone-free, photo-free show, although it was stated on the tickets and announcements. People’s phones and cameras were put in a personal pouch, to be locked much like a clothing security tag and then opened at the end. To be frank, although it was frustrating at times, as people searched for friends in the sea of people with no way of contact, it was quite a refreshing concert. There was no annoyance of watching the concert through some asshole's Facebook live in front of you and no distracting selfies around you. It was an interesting concept that more artists should get into. The place was buzzing with the same question, “What time is it?”

The concert opened with a fun pop-punk group that seemed to play on Sex Pistols type sensibilities. It was a fast-paced start to the night as the crowd poured into the amphitheater. The Mettrum Lawn was full before the seats were, and the atmosphere was relatively relaxed before Jack White was set to go on. People lied on blankets, smoked their necessities, and chugged the king size beers in anticipation. It was admirable to see people just enjoying the music and each other’s company.

When Jack White came out on stage, the entire crowd stood up and cheered, and would continue to stand throughout the show. His songs in general pack a punch and have a palpable intensity. He opened with “Over and Over and Over” from his new album which is catchy as hell. The night had a solid mixture of Jack White solo songs and ventures, as well as classic White Stripes tunes such as “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “Hotel Yorba”. The show was captivating on many levels. Jack White’s signature raunchy guitar style was ever present, and reminiscent of styles akin to Neil Young. Considering the gravity of Meg White’s drumming in the midst of their success, the percussion had a lot to live up to. He had drummer, Carla Azar, to fill the role. She oozed passion and carried the songs with vigor and swank. The backing band as a whole was incredibly talented and a great compliment to the songs. It was the first concert in a while, that during a slower song, people actually put up lighters instead of phones. The crowd was glowing like a lantern show, and quite a sight to behold.

Another quirk of the concert was Jack White owning his encore. The concert went into a strange lull after “I’m Slowly Turning Into You”, the musicians left the stage, and the screens showed a video of the keyboardist doing push-ups, which went on for a few minutes. The video then transitioned into footage of the bassist shaving in a bluish abyss. The crowd cheered, and suddenly they all came back to play eight more songs. The concert ended on a high note. He played “Icky Thump” which had the crowd jumping and violently headbanging. This was followed by an intense version of his single “Connected by Love”, and finally ending with White Stripes classic, “Seven Nation Army”. Jack White and the music of the White Stripes speaks to an era of music where his genre was unique. Late 90s early 2000s rock had distinctive, now passé qualities that set the White Stripes apart from the rest. Even after their demise, Jack White proved his prowess as an artist and is in the midst of an incredibly successful solo career, as well as being the head of Third Man Records. His experimentation, artistry, and fearlessness made him an instant classic. The nostalgia factor of the White Stripes is not apparent until you hear the songs contrasted with his new work. The concert was a unique, and truly badass experience. It was effortlessly memorable.