Walking into the Hordern alongside a man wearing black pants and a red shirt, I resist the urge tell him he’s 10 years too late. Who knows, maybe he’s not a White Stripes die-hard looking to revisit the glory days – he could just be a guy who enjoys vibrant businesswear, out for a night on the town – but it’s hard not to immediately think of the candy-striped black, white and red that defined White’s first band. Since then, of course, White has undergone a number of metamorphoses and moved on to several other projects and colour palettes. The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather (the “supergroup” that also includes Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes) and now his solo album, which he’s touring for Splendour in the Grass.
It’s immediately obvious that he hasn’t used going solo as an opportunity to downsize. For a start, he’s touring with two bands, one all-male, the other all-female, and no one knows which he’ll walk on stage with until the day of the performance. Tonight he’s got the boy band, a powerhouse in powder blue. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed – afterall, we’ve seen Jack in plenty of testosterone-heavy outfits before – but that dissipates as soon as soon as the gig begins.
He ricochets off each of the other five band members, paying them equal attention in a set-list comprised of the blues and country-tinged numbers from his new record as well as a few from his other recording ventures. ‘Cut Like a Buffalo’ (The Dead Weather) goes down particularly well, but it’s the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army,’ the crowd roaring the song’s distinctive riff, that finishes the encore on a high. To hear so much of White’s repertoire in a single set serves as a reminder of his ability to traverse genres while simultaneously maintaining a sound that’s distinctly his own. But the real clincher comes after the band has left the stage. All the sound equipment is dismantled by men wearing suits, ties and pork pie hats. They look more like extras from Boardwalk Empire than hired muscle. Jack White may be busy blowing the roof off a concert hall, but not even the roadies escape his eagle-eye or singular vision.