Jack White at the YouTube Theater
photo courtesy of JackWhiteiii.com
Jack White’s immersion program begins with the relinquishing of cell phones outside of the YouTube Theater, the 6,000-seat venue within L.A.’s gargantuan SoFi stadium complex. It’s a mandatory requirement for anyone wanting to step inside and witness an evening of White’s Supply Chain Issues tour; attendees are permitted to keep their phones with them in a locked pouch. The effect is, at first, jarring, and it’s only the start of the subtle and not so subtle ways White infiltrates and leads his capacity-crowd through an encompassing and inspired 21-song set.
To be candid, any review has to draw its own line as to how much to reveal about the nearly-two hours White and three-piece band spent onstage. There’s something enjoyably immediate and wondrous when experiencing White’s considerably creative and giving performance without previously leaked spoilers or distractions. The no-phone rule is a good discomfort, keeping the focus on the moment, and it’s what the boss wants. (The immediate irony of this stop in Los Angeles- with a second night to follow- is the where as much as the what: cell-phone-less at the YouTube Theater; the namesake, a corporation that has done far more than any to provide a platform for audiences’ concert vids.)
So, before the cacophonic sonic preamble behind the curtain, before the first conical colored lights swirled and flashed, White already had exerted a measure of control. Juxtapose that internal control- as the curtain rose slowly on the four kicking into “Taking Me Back”- with the perpetually restless White challenged externally from the start, battling technical issues with his guitar. He would abandon the instrument, with slightly conspicuous frustration, and finish the song instead at the piano.
Problem solved, he strapped in to his custom Fender, forging into the overdriven and sinister fuzz of “Fear of the Dawn.” Often, White paced as though caged, as if barely able to contain his impulses. He emphatically urged the audience to join him in as his choir. And sang as though his voice was bleeding, hoping for a catharsis that never quite comes; melodies lifting feverishly into an upper-octave range with a kind-of terrorizing control.
Control: a word that flutters subconsciously around the brain as segmented screens behind the quartet played devilishly with one’s depth perception; shapes and images shifting from geometric to fluid in a blink. White shed what wasn’t working, mid-stream, taking off his shirt, tossing it into the mass, and replacing it with black, instead of blue. It’s impossible to know if this was spontaneous or calculated- like the song he started by saying he’d just begun writing it hours before- though it all feels the former. Either way, it epitomizes the metaphor living in White’s music, alternating widely between blackened newer material and the early 21st-century blues of his White Stripes’ output; like White knows some of us still aren’t ready for his future to be our present.
Fairly early, he dropped in the Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” and midway through paired up “Hotel Yorba” with “Fell in Love With a Girl.” White snake-handles his guitar, coaxing wild strains of anguished notes or patented riffs met with roars from the captivated crowd. “Ball and Biscuit” closed the set, before a two-song encore. The pulsating stomp of “Icky Thump” had the throng fully spellbound; White’s vocal as menacingly beautiful and potent as 100 minutes earlier. Then, a final “Steady, as She Goes,” The Raconteurs’ hit, took the long way home, expanding with some flash improvisation, before the final cycling hum of feedback and a lowered curtain.
You may now unlock and return to your lives as normal.