A dark, wet, November night in Blackpool. The Empress Ballroom stands out as a Victorian jewel, suffocated by bland mini marts and pound stores. Though eerily quiet outside, the crowds have been gathering for several hours inside the corridors of this magnificent, grandiose music hall, with its ornate ceilings and chandeliers, supported by walls adorned with wrought iron work and old wood panels, it’s like stepping back in time. It’s a very fitting venue for an artist like Jack White, who seems to straddle the divide between the old and the new, with relative ease and style. Many years have passed since The White Stripes recorded their very first DVD Under Blackpool Lights in January 2004 at this very same venue.
Support tonight is from the up and coming 21 year old William Sinclair aka Willy Moon, a New Zealander currently based in the UK, having released a single ‘Railroad track’ on Jack Whites own record label ‘Third Man’ and fresh from his recent Jools Holland appearance, which raised his profile considerably. His slender, female guitarist, dressed in black takes to the stage and proceeds to play the opening riff of a cover of a Jack White cover, the old Little Willie John hit, ‘I’m Shakin’. It’s several bars later that the rest of the band hit the stage, female drummer and a rather pointless man on twin record decks, though I suspect his main job is controlling the loops and backing tracks. The two girls are extremely tight and powerful and the tunes are interesting and well executed but there’s something about Mr Moon’s stage presence and movements that feel unnatural and forced, and is therefore uncomfortable to watch at times, but, a respectable set that seemed to please the majority of this sell out crowd. I believe he is one to watch this year, and is currently blasting out on the TV Advertisement for the Apple ipod with his track ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’! http://willymoon.com
After Mr Moon has waned, the roadies,and crew are all dressed in black suits and looking like Amish gangsters, and they set the stage for the arrival of the Don himself. The black and white stage set is starved of any colour, complete with white Hollywood movie floodlights, emblazoned with three [Jack has an obsession with the number 3] white stripes as are the drapes that cover the back of the stage. Tonight, we are treated to the vintage dressed all-girl band, named The Peacocks, (Jack has an identical all-boy band he named The Buzzards, that he alternates with, as seen on the ‘I’m Shakin’ video) thus making the stage even more like a black and white movie. The reel flickers into action as the silent feature makes way for the talkies and Jack White, with guitar in hand, crunches into action with the first number which is a White Stripes track ‘Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground’ with his unique sound, like a broad sword hacking into a box of light bulbs.
The band comprised of, drums, bass, pedal steel, violin, singer and keyboardist, are all dressed in black and white, and shades of grey with only skin tone and blue stage lighting providing respite from the lack of colours. Exceptional musicians who are almost robot like in their delivery, in a Stepford Wives kind of way, with the exception of the violinist and backing singer Ruby Amanfu who trades licks and vocals with the Svengali, to perform an exceptional duo on ‘Love Interruption’. Whereas other bands would be horrified by extraneous noises between songs and during instrument changes, our Phantom of the Opera seems to relish and delight in the cacophony of howls from his six stringed sirens. Deliberately coaxing string noise and feedback to bridge the gaps between songs and thus, creating tension within his enthusiastic and fanatical following. White’s show is pure theatrics, which is a complete contrasts to his, angular, quirky style of his eccentric blend of punk blues!
The set is a mixture of songs from Jack’s various musical adventures, [The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Danger Mouse, Dead Weather and his recent solo material]. It was well paced and beautifully played, but the encore seemed to come too soon, then seemed to last forever. A small section of the crowd are a little over enthusiastic for just a little bit too long and are finally rounded up in an impressive pincer movement by the security guys, but their ejection is hardly noticed - such is the intensity of the show. It’s hard to believe that it’s over ten years since The White Stripes became a force to be reckoned with, and Jack White has never been an easy listen. His sound is often harsh and his vocals are so far from middle of the road that they have mounted the curb and smashed through your privets. But his music has edge, and passion, and is always exciting and unpredictable and untamed, like a wild animal. As the show ends with an amazing reception from the audience, Jack & his Peacocks take a stage bow and leave us with a few simple words....“See you later Blackpool – who knows when.” Everyone starts to make their way out of the mighty ballroom, a little stunned and amazed at what they had witnessed tonight. As we exit the only Illuminations still on, are the street lights and stars. And as the film clatters off the end of the reel, signalling the end of a very enjoyable and entertaining evening, we head off into the breezy Blackpool night. http://jackwhiteiii.com
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (White Stripes)
Hotel Yorba (White Stripes)
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Top Yourself (The Raconteurs)
Two Against One (Danger Mouse)
The Same Boy You've Always Known (White Stripes)
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep (Jack solo album - Blunderbuss)
Cannon / Let's Build a Home / Screwdriver / Blue Blood Blues (The Dead Weather)
I'm Slowly Turning Into You (White Stripes)
Broken Boy Soldier (The Raconteurs)
Ball and Biscuit (White Stripes)
The Hardest Button to Button (White Stripes)
Freedom at 21
We're Going to Be Friends (White Stripes)
You Know That I Know (Hank Williams cover)
Catch Hell Blues
Seven Nation Army
Review by Les Glover
Photos by Melanie Smith [point & shoot only camera]