“What’s the trick,” asks Jack White in one of his most played recent songs, “In Making My Love Stick?” It’s a rhetorical question, one that anyone who’s seen him in concert recently can answer with plenty of practical answers — all of them were there for a breathtakingly good, long set Friday night at downtown LA’s intimate Belasco Theater.
No one puts on a more consistently thrilling show in rock ‘n’ roll these days, and perhaps there’s a show-biz “trick” or two among them. The fact that he never starts a concert with a fully plotted out setlist (as dictated by his DJ/hype before the band comes on each night) is like catnip in cultivating the affection of a group of fans who believe that latent there lies the value of each performance’s own individuality. But the world’s worst jam band can mix it up every night without doing much for spontaneity alone. it’s not Purely Unpredictability that can make a person want to bet and follow White for a few shows (or at least just stream or download a bunch of them on Nugs.net). Right now you’ve got him calling out aurally with three of the best sidemen on the planet, and it’s definitely in his extended solo. But it’s his impromptu squeals – on vocals or guitar – and the way he dances backwards in the white buck while peeling off something that could peel off wallpaper. White has that Jimi Hendrix energy, but Hendrix filters through Memphis’ own brand of swagger. Because you’ve either got a little Elvis in you or you haven’t.
What audiences got at the Belasco show — announced just a week ahead of time — amounted to a “friends and family” gig, with White actually invoking that phrase as the concert drew to an extended close. Naturally, he made an addition about how everyone there was F&F for the night, but it can put a little spring in a rocker’s step when the guest list is full of people they actually know and want to impress. Friday’s show had Olivia Jean, who played the first night of her “Supply Chain Issues” tour last April and married him the same evening, returning for opening duties for one of the tour’s postscript gigs. White shouted out a few more names during the set – one number was dedicated to “Lars and Jessica” (Ulrich, that is, maybe, maybe) and others name-checked in the house included Tom Morello, Josh Homme, Jack Black, Conan O’Brien. and two cats – Cat Power and Doja Cat. It’s not like you’ll ever get the impression that White is holding back in Tulsa, but if you’re hoping for a 55-minute encore, it doesn’t hurt to have a side-stage contingent like this one. (“We were supposed to finish about four songs ago,” he said about two-thirds of the way through what amounted to about a second set.) Or perhaps that longevity had to do with the energy at the end of the marathon. , as White’s schedule finally had reason to go dark for a while, after Saturday’s iHeartRadio set at the Forum and two just-announced closing gigs at his own Blue Room club in Nashville this week.
That most hardcore fans bought tickets to the Belasco show (a sign-up offer offered to Third Man Vault members) was evident from the number of attendees carrying poster tubes, which were not provided at the merch stand. It’s highly trusted who knows that if you’re going to buy a limited-edition show screen print that will sell out before the headline performance starts, and it’s an SRO show, you’ll need to bring your own tube. Speaking of YouTube, White was last seen headlining the LA proper at the YouTube Theater last summer, which offered a nice combination of standing room in front and seating in the back two-thirds. But it’s nice to have him at the Belasco, a until-recently-dormant old cinema and playhouse that’s recently been a wonderful hosting ground for rock shows, with no character-sacrificing rehabs, and a particularly nice addition. Those in the city’s concert scene prefer a sweatier, less spit-polished experience.
As was common with White shows on tour, many of the opening songs came from his 2022 twin albums, three of the first four being the gonzo “Fear of the Dawn” — interrupted only by a promising White Stripes song, “Dead Leaves and Dirty Fields.” ” — and then two more from the mellow “Entertaining Heaven Alive,” the closest thing the show had to an acoustic break. From there, it was mostly the more familiar Stripes, Raconteurs and “Lazaretto”/”Blunderbuss” material, though there was enough of a hardcore-fan crowd that there was even a new weirdness with the Cab Calloway samples of “Hi De Ho.” , an endorphin rush seems almost audible as “Balls and Biscuits”.
Three songs into the nine-song encore, White was ready to wrap things up with what seemed to be the longest song of any set if it included, “Steady, As He Goes,” which sent him into a standing ovation. -and-jumping command he admits to borrowing from a band that had at least one member on hand, the Hives. But his follow-up to the schoolyard “We’re Gonna Be Friends” signaled that the encore was about to take on its own spin, as evidenced by White following the unsettling “Entering Heaven Alive,” a country-destiny-and-death ballad, “Being What Happened Gone,” sings keyboard player Quincy McCrary to enable him to deliver Church-honored chops on vocals and piano. It wasn’t long before White interacted with drummer Daru Jones very differently, standing and holding a cymbal to hit Jones — among others on his unusually sprawling kit — as the rarely played “I Fight Piranhas” almost always made its way into play (but not sure). ) “Seven Nation Army.” Cliché to say that, in two and a half hours, White left everything on stage, only on stage he never betrayed any hint of fatigue. After an almost entirely intense number of 23 he gives off the impression that he’s still got more in him.
According to a count of shows recalled on setlists.fm, the past nine months of touring have seen White and his formidable band (which also includes bassist Dominic John Davis) play more than 120 different songs in less than 100 gigs. At least a third of these numbers were performed only once during the entire tour, and another dozen or so were played only twice (such as Friday’s “John the Revelator”). So it’s not just limited-edition posters or limited-edition colored vinyl — White Live treats songs like collectors’ items, sometimes, even if there aren’t any slicked-out deadheads who could possibly show up and collect them.
The night after his Belasco show, White played a short, festival-style iHeartRadio alternative-rock one-nighter set at the Forum, which was streamed live on Veeps — and it’s fair to assume that anyone who caught the set probably felt pretty satisfied. did, even, eight songs versus 23 the previous night. He doesn’t actually have to be a volume dealer to make you feel spent – although it doesn’t hurt. White has torn his blue hair off sometime during the holidays, but even one of his modest sets has enough violence to turn a man or cheek gray.
The combination of deeply studied songcraft and seemingly primal abandon is a good strategy, if you can pull it off. Which no one else really can. It might be silly to say less than three weeks into January, but it’s hard to imagine that LA has seen a better rock ‘n’ roll show than when we made our 2023 lists and double-checked them in December.