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It’s official: Jack White is the biggest rock star in the world

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Photos by David James Swanson // Written by Mike Frash //

Jack White //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
August 23rd, 2014 //

Severe ankle sprain, what? No big deal, the show must go on.

On a weekend with appealing festivals all over California, Jack White proved on Saturday that he’s not only a bonafide festival headliner for any occasion, but also the biggest and most essential rock star in the world.

The Jack White that showed up in San Francisco this past weekend was more focused and engaging than prior tours. He’s noticeably more upbeat and punk in how he performed than in the past, while also appearing authentic, positive, comfortable and likable.

So when the Third Man giant proclaimed, “From the Bottom of the Hill to the top of the hill” in reference to playing the tiny San Francisco club twice in 2000 with The White Stripes, he wasn’t bragging. He was stating a plain fact.

Jack White is the king of rock at this point in time, and he was magnificent on Saturday, not showing the effect of a bad ankle sprain within 24 hours of being pressured by his team to cancel the whole tour due the accident Friday night.

White is clearly on a mission to graduate to arenas after this theater-sized tour, and he’s on his way — so he’s not going to let some lower body swelling get in his way.

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What’s most appealing is how White is achieving this feat within the boundaries of his established throwback style.

White and his band appeared from behind a massive theater curtain to launch into an impactful “Sixteen Saltines”, while a television from the ‘50s sticks out in the middle of the stage to remind you that this artist, who now sports an Elvis-like haircut, could have thrived in another era from the past. Also, it reminds you that looking at a bright screen is not very fun while at a concert.

Jack White was one of the first artists to speak up about concert smartphone photos and videos, and signs were put up on his 2012 tour asking fans to keep their phones in their pockets during the show. The public backlash was pretty brutal.

To clarify his position in 2012, he wrote “the only thing that we’ve ever asked of the audience is to not take pictures or videos while holding up their camera phones, etc that block other peoples view or otherwise hinder other fans concert experiences.” The message continued, “Along with that, the bigger idea is for people to experience the event with their own eyes and not watch an entire show through a tiny screen in their hand.”

Before the show began on Saturday, someone from White’s camp spoke to the crowd, reiterating these points in a comedic way, and the crowd erupted in support and applause. A lot can change in a couple years. Also, White has hired a tour photographer to cover the show in leu of discouraging press and crowd-based photography. They’re available on White’s site after every show, and as the speaker mentioned, “You can claim them as your own.” We won’t — the tour photos are courtesy of David James Swanson.

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Labeled as grumpy, sad and controlling the past few years, White was the ambassador of fun during this show. Smooth transitions were a plenty, and songs would often play out in three to five song segments. The setlist was upbeat and energetic, slower songs were played faster than their studio recordings on most occasions, and the crowd was along for the ride, bouncing this positive energy back to the stage to fuel the frontman.

“Hello Operator” was absent of words but was filled in by an uproarious harmonica solo. The one Dead Weather song of the evening, “I Cut Like a Buffalo”, transformed into a blues meets ecstatic chaos number that was a high point of the show.

The cavernous space of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium never felt so small.

A couple quick covers were laced into the extended encore, much like what Phish has been doing for years and what Arcade Fire has been doing lately. Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” slid into the middle of “Icky Thump”, with “Message In A Bottle” emerging during “Steady, As She Goes” by The Raconteurs. This section in particular showed of White’s better than ever shredding skills.

After finishing his part of “Seven Nation Army” and successfully appealing to the audience for support with his stadium anthem, he joined in on drums to bring the show to a thundering conclusion. With the crowd going bonkers, he approached the mic one more time for a sincere thank you to San Francisco as he held his hands over his heart.

Without question, Jack White is one of the best live artists of 2014. And now with a humble, inclusive attitude, his stock should only rise further.

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Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Oh No, Not Another Music Blog! and commented:
    He sure is one of the biggest and people sometimes don’t give him the love he deserves for his great work during is career.

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