Jack White returned to Deer Lake Park last Thursday with his typical shock of Edward Scissorhands hair buzzed on the sides. The locks on top of his head fell to his ears, where a pair of Elvis-inspired sideburns continued the trajectory south. Jack appeared not in a full suit (his standard uniform) but a t-shirt, blue-and-black pinstriped pants, white buckle shoes, and, peculiarly, a compression sleeve on his right arm.
More peculiarly, White was not his usual talkative self. He didn’t tell (fictional?) stories or joke with the audience. Instead, he carried himself with businesslike seriousness as he ripped into blues brute “High Ball Stepper”, the menacing “I’m Slowly Turning into You”, and other beloved guitar-heavy singles including “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “Freedom at 21”. He did offer many opportunities for the crowd to clap and lead the vocals though.
His set spanned his mainstream career: the Raconteurs’ bass-powered “Steady As She Goes” set the crowd into a state of kinetic cool; they swayed like flowers in the wind during “Rose with a Broken Neck”, one of his collaborations with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi; and too many White Stripes songs to name filled long-time fans with nostalgic glee.
Songs such as “We’re Going To Be Friends”, “Sugar Never Tasted So Good”, “Temporary Ground”, “Love Interruption”, and the rare live treat (one of my favourite White Stripes songs and one of their most underrated in my opinion), “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” proved that super-sizing songs doesn’t always make them sound better. Lost in the six-person band arrangement were the nuanced “happy accidents” in Jack’s guitar-playing – the missed notes and wrong notes that set his live performances so far apart from (and to many fans above) his studio recordings. Then there was the matter of Jack’s vocals: Ruby Amanfu’s and Lillie Mae Rische’s harmonies are saccharine on Blunderbuss and Lazaretto, but it’s difficult to synchronize with his erratic live singing style. One moment he and Rische complimented each other; the next he suddenly yelped over or growled under her voice.