Show Review: Jack White At The Sony Centre

By Erik Masson

Being a raving fan of the multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter/genius/demigod Jack White, I almost had a heart attack when I found out that he was playing at the Sony Centre on Wednesday, October 3rd and Thursday October 4th at 8:00 PM. I was even more excited when I procured tickets, thus ensuring my ascent to musical heaven. I went to the Thursday night show, got there an hour early to pick up my mountain of Jack White merchandise, and gleefully skipped up to my back-row balcony seat. But even seated so far away from that well of talent and joy, I was still overcome by waves of pure rock fury as he screamed, cooed and strummed his way through a his usual career-spanning setlist. Although he is touring his solo album, Blunderbuss, Jack draws from his work with numerous other bands (the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, Danger Mouse, etc…) at his performances.

The opening band was a country blues band called Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. They did a half-hour set of skiffle, bluegrass and good old foot-stomping rock n’ roll numbers. If you’re into old-school American music that never really died, check out Pokey LaFarge, who has a single for sale at thirdmanrecords.com.

Then Jack emerged, his jet-black hair falling over his pale face as he strode out, picked up his guitar, and erupted into “Missing Pieces“. As I screamed with him, “Sometimes someone controls everything about you, and when they tell you that they just can’t live without you, they ain’t lying; they’ll take pieces of you, and walk away, and take a part of you with them”, I lost what was left of my sanity. He then jumped right into the furious “Sixteen Saltines“, the perfect transition into the next two White Stripes numbers. After playing the opening riff of “Cannon” and teasing us all, he led right into a slow, drawn-out version of “Wasting My Time“, after which he finished what he started with the furious “Cannon“. From there he jumped into “Freedom at 21“, which is regarded as the best song on the new album. He then sang two of the most honest love songs I’ve ever heard: “Love Interruption” and “Blunderbuss“. Picking up the pace with “Top Yourself“, he used this Raconteurs jewel as a chance to let his backing band show off their talents, with blazing solos from his drummer, keyboardist, and bassist. He then whipped out “Cut Like a Buffalo“, a Dead Weather blues-riff masterpiece, which he re-worked and supplemented with those blazing Jack White guitar solos fans have all come to love.

Jack White performing on his second night in Toronto, photo by Jo McCaughey, via http://www.jackwhiteiii.com

“I Guess I Should Go to Sleep“, a Blunderbuss pick, and “Same Boy You’ve Always Known“, a White Stripes classic, mellowed the atmosphere a bit, and gave us all a chance to rest up for “Blue Blood Blues” and “Steady, As She Goes“, from the Dead Weather and the Raconteurs respectively. Testing his audience’s dedication, he then played the more obscure “Two Against One“, which he recorded with Danger Mouse. Then, the hall filled with thousands of voices as we all joined him to sing “We Are Going to be Friends”. After the glorious, piano-driven rock anthem “Weep Themselves to Sleep”, he then blazed through the White Stripes number “Hello Operator”, led in by the first instrumental section of the Raconteurs hit “Broken Boy Soldier”. Then, he tore through our eardrums with the solo-laden White Stripes blues perfection, “Ball and Biscuit”. After walking off stage, he then returned for an encore (to my eternal joy), starting with the garage-rock classic, “The Hardest Button to Button”. After playing the final Blunderbuss piece, “Take Me With You When You Go”, he finished the set with the fiery yet intricate “Catch Hell Blues”, followed by his staple ending song, “Seven Nation Army”. It was a truly great moment when we all stomped and hollered that famous riff together, and as the audience all screamed, “And the stains coming from my blood tell me go back home”, I thought that there was absolutely no place on earth I’d rather be.

Those of us on the balcony were restricted in our dancing options (luckily, the fools beside me left after a few songs, so I had plenty of room to freak out properly). However, the crowd was fantastic, warmly welcoming the incredible opening group, and screaming their praises to the man himself. He chose his male backing band the night I attended (he alternates between an all-male band and an all-female band), and they were incredibly tight, every member playing with almost as much enthusiasm and charisma as Jack. Jack himself was a force of nature, jumping all over the stage, his fingers a blur over his furiously worked guitar. He wanted to be as close to his band as possible, constantly leaning into the drum kit, singing side by side with his backers, and going back-to-back with his keyboardist for those songs in which they were both hammering the ivory keys.

Jack White performing on his second night in Toronto, photo by Jo McCaughey, via http://www.jackwhiteiii.com

It was an absolutely incredible performance; I expected nothing but the best from the mad king of rock, and he more than delivered.

Featured image: David Leyes, via http://www.arts.nationalpost.com

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