Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jack White Concert Review

The wife and I go to see music once a year at most.  Last year we saw The Dead Weather; this year we saw Jack White.  The common link is my wife's semi-obsession with Mr White.  Apparently she has frequent dreams in which we both move to Nashville (I think I get to go), somehow run into Jack somewhere around town, and all become friends.  So.  I don't know what to make of that, but it doesn't sound promising, does it?

White played a few nights ago at the Wiltern and so we dressed up like young people and left the valley. On a weeknight.  Which is basically, for us, the equivalent of dropping acid, hijacking a yacht, and spending a month cruising the Dalmatian coast.

The show was not bad.  White has a likable stage presence and he's obviously a gifted musician.  He also looks remarkably like Edward Scissorhands.  His tour is in support of his first solo album, Blunderbuss, which is made up, apparently, of songs he's been writing over the last several years.

The band was fine, the songs were okay.  My takeaway was that White needs other people who are creatively potent as himself to be in contact with.  He has innate musical talent--he's one of those people that if you invented a new instrument tomorrow, he could play it well by next week--but his songwriting skills have yet to really blossom.  He works mostly in fairly standards--blues or three-chord, I/IV/V, single basic repeated riff-driven songs.  That's nothing wrong with any of that, but I don't get the sense, watching him, that he's pushing his own creative boundaries.  What he needs is a collaborator who's as talented as he is, someone who'll challenge him to be better than he has been before.

A few nights before the concert, The Last Waltz had been on TV, and when I watched Jack White the person I thought off was Rick Danko.  They're both talented musicians; they both play many instruments well; and they both have a genuine rock oddness to them.  They're not trying to seem eccentric, they really are eccentric.  The difference is that Danko, for whatever reason, joined his talents--for some amount of time anyway--with other people as equally talented and strong-willed as himself.  The result was at least two masterpiece albums.  White, on the other hand, keeps finding projects where he's the alpha dog.  The resulting music is what I imagine Rick Danko's solo albums probably sound like.  They're fine; they're not devoid of interest, but they're not special.  White could be special--I think.  But not on his own.


JMW said...

Ha! "Which is basically, for us, the equivalent of dropping acid, hijacking a yacht, and spending a month cruising the Dalmatian coast." Love it.

Interesting thoughts about White. First, I hope he and your wife will be very happy. I'll be around to help you drown your sorrows at the bar and at the poker table.

Second, I think you're right that he doesn't really push boundaries. I don't normally mind this with people, though, if I like the boundaries they work within. I wonder if he's actually best when he's NOT collaborating at all. There was something elemental and great about the best White Stripes stuff that I don't really hear in his fuller-band arrangements. And Meg was famously a non-contributor, ideas-wise. Maybe he thrives as a full-on tyrant? Just a thought.

ANCIANT said...

Something to that. His songs really work best with just him alone or him with the minimal thudding Meg White accompaniment. It's like..he doesn't know how to utilize a full band. I almost wrote about that in my original post. He had--oddly--included in his band a mandolinist and a steel guitar player. I love both instruments (steel guitar especially) but neither instrument plays any significant role in any of his songs. Both musicians seemed unsure what they were supposed to be doing up there, and usually you couldn't hear either one of them. The mandoline guy ended up having to just bang a tambourine on half the songs. So, yes. Maybe it's that he's got his foot in too separate pools. Either be Son House--which is who he most wants to be--or learn to play in a full band. But don't be Son House in a large band. That makes no sense.

ANCIANT said...

That should be "two" obviously. It's late. Also, mandolin. Not the kitchen tool.

Cartooniste said...

Am I the only one who confuses Jack White and Jack Black? I am, aren't I.

ANCIANT said...

They're actually the same person, as far as I can tell. Notice how you never see them together? And Jack Black is always singing and carrying on like a rock star? Not a coincidence.

I saw Jack Black about three months ago, at the park where I exercise. He was helping to load children in and out of an SUV for a soccer match. He seemed very cheerful and jolly, as you might expect. Two months later, I saw Kendra..whatever her name is (from the eponymous show) at the same park. What a glamorous life I lead!