Back in the early 2000s when singer-guitarist Jack White came through town to play places like Pat’s in the Flats and the Beachland Tavern with that rag-tag garage rock duo the White Stripes, you could just sense that there was a greatness lurking behind the band’s candy-striped schtick. Sure, his accomplice, drummer Meg White, was a bit of a handicap on the drum kit, but the two had terrific chemistry and White had that certain something that you can’t quite define. His rock star charisma was on full display last night during a sold out two-hour show at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica where he and his fantastic five-piece band dipped into a wide range of musical styles and drew from White’s now extensive catalog. White shifted from electric guitar to piano to acoustic guitar and back to electric guitar with remarkable agility.
With his lengthy sideburns and his hair shaved short on the sides, White looked like some kind of gangster in his suspenders, black shirt and tie. His crew even dressed in suits and top hats; before the show began, one of his handlers warned the audience against taping or taking photos because this “is a live performance.” Playing under dim blue lights essentially made it impossible to get a good photo anyway. White, who delivered the herky jerky title track from his latest album Lazaretto
early in the set, regularly re-visited songs from the White Stripes catalog. Much like his idol Bob Dylan, he rearranged the songs so they became difficult to recognize. The Stripes’ tune “Hotel Yorba” benefited from a touch of organ and had a bit more twang to it, and “Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground,” another Stripes’ tune, sounded bluesier than its original and featured stand-up bass. A stripped-down mid-set segment featured mandolin and fiddle. While it showed White’s range, it also created a bit of a lull. But White plugged back in and baited the audience to respond as he played tunes such as “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told),” which he turned into a sing-a-long.
White’s between-song “rants,” as he described them were hard to decipher, though we did have to agree with a bit of wisdom he dropped (and he self-consciously noted that the critics would be sure to print it the next day) that "the search for authenticity was a false journey." That might be the case, but we’d argue there’s something authentically superb about White’s approach. As he pointed out, he doesn’t use any pyrotechnics (or any kind of production at all, really). “That way, I can whatever the hell I want,” he boasted. As a result, his set lists change drastically from night to night (though he generally ends his shows with the White Stripes’ tune “Seven Nation Army”). That’s an old-fashioned (dare we say "authentic") approach, but it worked supremely well last night.