Photographs by David James Swanson
I am not a fan of Internet memes, but must admit I got a kick out of how “Sad Jack White” recently became somewhat of a social media phenomenon.
If you’re one of the three people who hasn’t seen it yet, it’s a pic of the multitalented musician looking mighty surly at a Chicago Cubs game. I’m not sure where this reputation for grumpiness comes from; I guess I’ve been lucky in that Jack White has put on nothing but a stellar show each and every time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live, whether it be with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, or now as a solo artist.
To borrow a little something-something from The Who, it was definitely a “Happy Jack” that took to the stage July 31st at Air Canada Centre. While the home of the Leafs and Raptors is a venue White is familiar with, having opened for The Rolling Stones there back in 2002, it’s slightly off the beaten path in terms of his latest tour. Unless he’s headlining festivals like Bonnaroo and Governors Ball in New York City, White has chosen to showcase newest album Lazaretto in more intimate, historic theatres throughout the US. The last time Jack White graced T.O. with his rock presence, it was at the infinitely more in line Sony Centre just two blocks east of the ACC. Perhaps it was because Nick Cave was already booked there, but I found the decision to host the sound sensitive White at the notoriously muddy ACC a curious one to say the least.
Bad acoustics and a Bon Jovi banner didn’t stop Jack White from “killing it”, as kids today like to say. For 2+ hours, everything from White and his unnamed, 5-member backing band came through loud and clear. As he’s been doing since going out on his own a few years ago, White ran the musical gamut of his nearly 20 year career – He went heavy on Lazaretto tracks, and light on the concert banter and surprises such as covers. According to old reliable Setlist.fm, he apparently did a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear My Train A Comin’”, although it was tough to make out thanks to the ACC’s less than impressive audio system. There was also the matter of the 4 or 5 wannabe headbangers trying to start a hardcore mosh pit all night long. That was admittedly out of the ordinary, especially when White was duetting with lovely fiddler Lillie Mae Rische on the tender “Love Interruption”.
You can take this overexuberance as a sign that crowd energy was pretty high throughout. White may not have said much in between songs, but he repeatedly encouraged clapping to keep the momentum going, not to mention ‘woo’ing along with White Stripes favourite “I’m Slowing Turning into You”. In a little bit of nitpicking, with everything performed off of his excellent Lazaretto, I’m frankly surprised we didn’t hear the rollickingly fun “Three Women” instead of something that put a momentary damper on the large audience’s enthusiasm like the slower “The Rose with the Broken Neck” (which can be found on Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi’s Rome).
This was White’s first visit to Canada on his 2014 summer sojourn that will see him fest it up at Montreal’s Osheaga, as well as X-fest and SONiC BOOM in Calgary and Edmonton respectively over the Labo(u)r Day weekend. If you’re reading this and live in any of those cities, and appreciate good music delivered with passion, don’t hesitate, GO!