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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jack White @ The Rave

July 21, 2014

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Oftentimes when high-profile acts break up their members go off the grid for a while, taking a breather to recalibrate their career ambitions and creative approach, but, if anything, the 2011 demise of The White Stripes led lead singer and major songwriter Jack White to ramp up his activities, not tone them down. He was already in The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs by the time the iconic Detroit duo called it quits, but White’s since collaborated with everyone from Wanda Jackson to Insane Clown Posse, thrown himself into building his Third Man Records imprint with a certain Willy Wonka-esque flair and, most notably, pursued a solo career to critical acclaim and considerable sales. It all adds up to an amazingly eclectic body of work, plenty of highlights from which were on display at the Rave Monday night.

After an enjoyable opening set from New Orleans-based Benjamin Booker, who trades in a gravelly, southern-fried garage rock sound, the stage was hidden by an enormous pale blue curtain (indicative of the kind of clear color-coding that separates White’s solo work from his time with The White Stripes, whose vibrant red aesthetic played a big part in defining them to the general public). Hiding the setup only increased the excitement level of the already energetic sold-out crowd, as did the moment when one of his crew members, who were dressed like extras from A Clockwork Orange, emerged from behind the curtain, replaced his bowler hat with a Brewers cap and reminded the crowd to stay hydrated in the stifling heat that engulfed the ballroom and to refrain from watching the show through their smartphones.

When the stage was finally revealed, it hadn’t changed much, but between his impeccable songwriting and his imposing personality, White owned it for the next 100 minutes or so. The setlist largely covered highlights from his solo albums, including “Sixteen Saltines” from 2012’s Blunderbuss and “Would You Fight for My Love” off the brand-new Lazaretto, but also broke into other material, like his interpretation of an uncompleted Hank Williams tune, “You Know I Know,” a raucous rendition of The Raconteurs’ “Steady as She Goes” and plenty of White Stripes songs, “Astro,” “Hotel Yorba” and the epic closer “Seven Nation Army” among them. Both White and his band were in fine form, and even the Rave’s unreliable sound cooperated, making for a stellar night of music from this notoriously restless artist.