Jack White makes the case with two career-spanning shows at LA’s YouTube Theater why he’s more than rock ‘n’ roll’s last great savior

Jack WhitePhotos courtesy of Jack White // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Jack White //
YouTube Theater – Inglewood, CA
May 31st-June 1st, 2022 //

Well, look who’s back …

When Jack White unloaded the lead single “Taking Me Back” from what would be his fourth album Fear of the Dawn in October, it was a signal to both his fans and the music industry that the 12-time Grammy winner was officially back (pun intended) with new solo material for the first time in three-plus years.

Sure, 2019 saw White put out The Raconteurs’ third studio effort — though just their first in more than a decade — on his own label Third Man Records and embark on a world tour alongside the band, but with the COVID-19 pandemic beginning only three months later and locking us down for the next couple of years, it’s fair to say the world has changed quite a bit since Boarding House Reach dropped in 2018.

That’s the last time White brought his solo act out to California (read our show review here), and it was around then that he started partnering with Yondr to lock fans’ cell phones during his concerts using the San Francisco-based company’s mobile pouches and having designated areas inside the venue where you can unlock them (think of it like a smoking section at any bar or club).

Of course the whole notion drew the ire of some who claimed White crossed a line and had gone too far to control his fans’ behavior. After all, you can’t please everyone, right? But while a phone-free show is a better experience for us all as I have previously argued, let’s be honest about what really matters at the end of the day: it hasn’t hurt his ticket sales at all. And for those of us who enjoy going to shows and not viewing them through a sea of six-inch screens, it’s a breath of fresh air to not catch even one raised in the crowd.

White has never been one for mobile technology. He still doesn’t own a cell phone — not even what the kids would call a “dumb phone” — and in 2022, that can sometimes make it a little harder if he suddenly needs a lift home from the airport or has to wait longer than expected for his doctor’s appointment.

Jack White

But White has survived without one for this long and so can we every few years he decides to tour. Because whenever he takes the stage, you never know what you’re going to get. Just ask his fellow Detroiters, who got to witness White’s engagement and subsequent wedding onstage to kick off the “Supply Chain Issues Tour” that stretches 62 dates all the way until late August — two of which took place this week at the 6,000-person YouTube Theater, the newest music venue to call Los Angeles home after breaking ground in August.

I must admit that this is not the only time I have pulled double duty when Jack has come to town. Nearly 10 years ago when White launched his first solo tour in support of Blunderbluss, he booked two gigs at LA’s historic Shrine Auditorium. After being completely transfixed by his all-male group the Buzzards the first night but eager to hear more, I returned on a whim the ensuing evening to see him perform with the all-female Peacocks and I’m glad that I did considering I got to hear him bust out Danger Mouse’s “Two Against One” and The Dead Weather’s “Blue Blood Blues” before delivering his best knockout punch in the encore with Stripes hits “My Doorbell” and “Seven Nation Army” as the final blow to the head.

Looking back at those shows in 2012, White’s solo career has taken some twists and turns in that time. He has made three more albums, produced numerous artists and even wrote a song for Beyoncé. But despite upgrading on this tour to more modern rooms — and it’s reflected in the ticket prices — like the state-of-the-art YouTube Theater that’s attached to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood and stripping down to a four-piece that includes Dominic Davis (bass, backing vocals), Daru Jones (drums) and Quincy McCrary (keyboards, samples, synthesizer, organ, backing vocals), the 46-year-old multi-instrumentalist has told us with his words and actions that he not only has the ability but also the purpose to continually surprise those of us willing to buy a ticket and take the ride.

“Every time I go in (to make an album), I’m trying to do something I haven’t done before,” White shared not long ago during an exclusive interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music that sees them visit his first art studio in Detroit when he made a living as a furniture upholsterer. “It’s not like something that other people haven’t ever done before. It’s just something I have never done before. … Whatever it is to get me to a different zone so that I’m not repeating myself.”

In many ways, the same philosophy applies to his live performances. There’s no doubt that White has his crowd-pleasers — particularly from The White Stripes’ catalog — that he still leans on, but you also won’t find him operating with only one setlist as he travels from city to city. Even if his live shows often begin and end in a similar fashion that creates a format for them and a brand for White as a performer, they nevertheless carry a dose of uncertainty and spontaneity.

“That’s what’s kind of cool about playing shows,” he tells Lowe later in their interview as they observe the empty lot that used to be the Gold Dollar where the Stripes performed for the very first time. “You don’t really know what’s going to happen. You shouldn’t know what’s going to happen I should say.”

Jack White

And with four separate projects to pull from now, Jack has no trouble filling out a setlist. He easily could play longer than the hour and 45 minutes that he gifts us, extending well past the two-hour mark, but at what cost? If it means preserving his health and longevity for many more years to come, I’m all for that. White, in fact, will be unleashing his second 2022 record Entering Heaven Alive this July, and given the early, yet strong reviews from critics who have gotten their hands (and ears) on it, future live audiences should eventually expect to hear more than just the three offerings — “A Tip from You to Me”, “Love Is Selfish” and “If I Die Tomorrow” — that we got in LA.

With the way rock ‘n’ roll has been holding on by a thread and White serving as one of the genre’s last great saviors, it’s easy to understand why he should consider playing the long game. Maybe that’s why certain non-Fear of the Dawn tracks — “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”, “Love Interruption”, “Ball and Biscuit”, and “Icky Thump” — were even repeated, which was certainly a surprise to us. That said, there was still plenty of diversity between the two shows, with The Raconteurs’ “You Don’t Understand Me” and The Dead Weather’s “Gasoline” bolstering Tuesday’s affair and covers of both The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” as well as Jimi Hendrix’s “Hear My Train a Comin'” standing out on Wednesday. It was even refreshing to hear him unleash Fear deep cut “Eosophobia” and the LP’s latest single “What’s the Trick?” on separate nights, while the genre-less “Hi-De-Ho” featuring Q-Tip — with his lyrics played from tape, something White rarely does when performing live — received two rounds of applause.

Some might ask, “What’s left for Jack White to do that he hasn’t already done?” That’s a good question, and one worth pondering as we have more time to reflect on the impact of his work and legacy. But as I watched White like the modern-day guitar hero that he is rip into one hair-raising solo after another while he was in LA, I couldn’t help but think of the small empire he has built for the past 25 years not only with his own style and sound but also culturally with Third Man Records leading the DIY movement for music. What makes Jack so special to his fans is that he represents what it truly means to be an artist in every sense of the word no matter what he’s doing. Whether he’s working on a song, couch or business idea, there’s always a greater vision to his madness and an inherent need to continue pushing boundaries.

“If you want to do something new to turn people on and get people’s imaginations going, you have to blend different things together and attempt to break new ground,” the blue-haired singer-songwriter explains at the end of his hour-long conversation with Lowe. “That’s the place that I try to live in.”

For more than a quarter century, White has been living in that space as he has let his own imaginations run wild. And yet, at no point did he expect things would turn out the way they have, rising to a level of international stardom that he never dreamed of when he almost decided to become a priest as a young teenager before changing his mind to attend public school — and the rest is history.

“There’s never been a moment where I’ve been like, ‘Yeah, that’s a good song. People should like that,'” he admits to Lowe. “I have never felt that. It’s always, ‘Well, that felt good to me. We’ll see.'”

That can be hard to believe from someone who’s as accomplished as Jack White, but for those of you who somehow aren’t familiar with the man after all these years … well, where the hell have you been?

MAY 31

Setlist:
Taking Me Back
Fear of the Dawn
The White Raven
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes song)
Hi-De-Ho
You Don’t Understand Me (The Raconteurs song)
Love Is Selfish
Temporary Ground
A Tip from You to Me
Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes song)
Cannon (The White Stripes song)
Eosophobia (followed by a reprise of “Cannon”)
Fell in Love With a Girl (The White Stripes song)
Lazaretto
Over and Over and Over
I’m Shakin’ (Little Willie John cover)
Gasoline (The Dead Weather song)
A Martyr for My Love for You (The White Stripes song)
Love Interruption
Ball and Biscuit (The White Stripes song)

Encore:
Icky Thump (The White Stripes song)
Steady, as She Goes (The Raconteurs song)

JUNE 1

Setlist:
Taking Me Back
Fear of the Dawn
I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges cover)
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes song)
The White Raven
If I Die Tomorrow
Love Is Selfish
I Think I Smell a Rat (The White Stripes song)
Black Math (The White Stripes song)
Freedom at 21
Hi-De-Ho
Apple Blossom (The White Stripes song)
We’re Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes song)
Love Interruption
I Cut Like a Buffalo (The Dead Weather song)
Hear My Train a Comin’ (Jimi Hendrix cover)
Ball and Biscuit (The White Stripes song)

Encore:
Icky Thump (The White Stripes song)
What’s the Trick?
Suzy Lee (The White Stripes song)
Catch Hell Blues (The White Stripes song)
Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes song)

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