Thursday, 20 November 2014

Jack White - Leeds First Direct Arena, November 17th 2014

Before we begin to unravel this two hour extravaganza by Jack White, let's take time to applaud the first guy we see on stage this evening.  Ten minutes or so before the band appear, a gentleman from the Detroit mans' crew addresses the crowd to politely ask them to refrain from watching the whole show through their smartphones. Evidently, some still need major surgery to detach them from the damn things, but the majority adhere to the plee and it's a better experience for all concerned.  If only this was mandatory at every live event.

Flanked by accomplished musicians, and a stage bathed in icy blue, simple lighting, Jack White is simply on fire and mindblowing tonight. The giant roman numeral of III, the nod to his Third Man label, tilts downwards high a over the stage and a flickering old style tv monitor bares the same symbol at the rear.  Mr White has got quite the back catalogue to go at as we're all well aware - six White Stripes albums, two Raconteurs records, two Dead Weather full-lengths, and now post-Lazaretto, two 'solo' studio albums. All of which are mixed up (with the exception of Dead Weather tracks), cranked up and dealt out at high volume inside the Leeds Arena.

The 'Stripes' numbers are given healthy new leases of life, and are all the better for it. 'Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground', 'Hotel Yorba' and 'I'm Slowly Turning Into You' particularly, physically have everybody moving as you'd rightly expect. From the blonde haired girl leaping and screaming frantically along with the front row, to the somewhat more mature lady in front of us up on the balcony throwing sixties shapes to every song. It's evidently agreeable we all love hearing Raconteurs again too, as he wields out 'Top Yourself' and later in the night 'Steady As She Goes'. Tracks from Blunderbuss are thin on the ground and sadly there's no 'Sixteen Saltines' but we do get the fabulous 'Love Interruption'. Naturally, there's more room for his most recent creations from 'Lazaretto' - 'High Ball Stepper', 'Three Women', the album title track and the encore's 'That Black Bat Licorice' have the band's fiddle, Theramin, double bass, piano and drums among other instrumentation playing magnificently together. 
Jack White engages with the Leeds crowd on several occasions, his speech akin to his playing at time - fast, frantic and full of passion. Encouraging independence for the North of England, bigging up his own Scottish heritage and generally playing right into the hands of his thousands of fans. There are no hollow, fake gestures here though. This man with such natural gifted ability and uncompromising passion has music flowing through his veins. The urge to just get on with it and give to the audience is evident throughout the set.
I feel like the only person in here not baying for Seven Nation Army as the band disappear before the encore. A fine song yes, though I firmly believe he has written many better. Thankfully on their return, before the inevitable anthemic song closes the night he treats us to a wild rendition of 'Icky Thump' as well as the aforementioned 'That Bat Black Licorice' and Raconteurs 'Steady As She Goes'. These songs I will take into the night air, ringing inside my head as the curtain comes down on this most spectacular evening of music. The second of only three UK dates has come to its climax. Leeds, we've been blessed here and no mistake. 

Words - Pete Jackson
Photos - Jack White Official

(A post-gig remark I spotted that, let's just say was less than kind in description to the venue, needs addressing here. Sure, arena gigs aren't sweaty intimate places that many of us prefer to frequent - in fact usually we come away from them disheartened, echoing the same sentiment that this person made on social media last night. On the strength of our first visit to Leeds arena it's clear this one has a better feel than many of the others that we'll leave nameless.  More like an oversized modern theatre in layout, it has impeccable sound and, from what we experienced, helpful and friendly staff sited everywhere. We'll be more than happy to return for another event whenever that opportunity arises.)

Did you attend the gig? What do you think of the Leeds First Direct Arena?