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Tour Review: Jack White at Toronto’s Sony Centre (10/3–10/4)

posted October 6, 2012, 11:03 am by ROCKthusiast | Filed Under General Interest, Live Show Reviews, Tour | comment Leave a Comment

Tags: Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Blunderbuss, Jack White, Toronto


Full disclosure before we get started – I consider Jack White to be the preeminent musician of the 21st century so far, embodying the past, present, and future of rock as I like to call it. That’s not too much of a bias, is it?

I have been waiting the better part of seven months for the Blunderbuss Express to pass through Toronto, a city White has professed his affection for on more than one occasion, and not in the usual concert context. In that time, he has helped his crew, which if you weren’t aware includes two full bands, earn more frequent-flyer miles this year than they’ve probably have in their entire individual careers. While many of White’s fans see him as some kind of invincible guitar-shredding superhero, he is only human, even if I’m among those who have trouble admitting that sometimes. All that pent-up road weariness no doubt played a role in the incident that happened in New York City a few days prior. It was obvious it was weighing heavily on the minds of Torontonians before White emerged from the shadows on Wednesday night with his strutting Peacocks for the first of two sold-out shows at the history-filled Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

As White duetted the tender “Love Interruption” with beautiful Ghanaian Ruby Amanfu, he appeared tired. To be blunt, Jack White was going on fumes. During the second verse, he leaned in to start singing his part a good foot away from the microphone stand, whereupon Amanfu lead him by his poofy, mad music scientist hair back to where he should be, with those close enough to action on stage holding their collective breath. Halfway through the set, however, as the mostly unaware crowd began to prematurely falsetto on “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep”, White paused to say, “Now hold on. This is a tango. One person leads.” It was like a switch had gone off inside of him, and you could literally see some colour return to his pasty-white face. I honestly don’t think I’m overstating when I say that Toronto at that point reenergized Jack White, as the pace noticeably picked up, achieving almost breakneck speed by the end of the next night. The only tension in the air for the rest of Wednesday was purely sexual between White and his six, count ’em, six Southern belles amidst red-hot, country-fried renditions of White’s 13+ year song canon.

But the most interesting dynamic of having attended both shows was hearing the same tunes performed by the seemingly ready-to-strike all-male Buzzards. Here’s their template: Imagine a blues standard like Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” getting roughed up by some 1920s-looking gangsters, coupled with a heavy dose of time-bending, darkly groovy psychedelia. I nearly made a citizen’s arrest on Ikey Owens for the way he was physically abusing his keyboard, pummeling it with his fists and entire forearms at times. Daru Jones would repeatedly stand up and beat down his cymbals and toms as if to show the drum kit in front of him who’s boss.

White wasn’t fazed by any of the carnage going on around him; he seemed hellbent on playing as much as he could with pedal-to-the-metal velocity. “We’re Going to Be Friends” was about the slowest he got on Thursday, still fueled by all the proverbial love from earlier. You won’t find a more potent stimulant for a personality like himself. It was reminiscent of a White Stripes gig circa 2003, with one great song flowing into the other, stream of consciousness style! Not to give away any band secrets, but in a conversation I had beforehand with Jones, he confirmed the absence of any setlists, meaning both Buzzards and Peacocks had better keep up with whatever pace White decides to set.

Toronto must have done something right. We participated, which is all White really asks his audiences to do, and he reciprocated in kind. Hopefully he leaves with enough energy to carry him through the remainder of the year – You couldn’t have asked for a more perfectly-timed tonic.

*Photos courtesy of Jo McCaughey and JackWhiteIII.com

Night 1 Setlist w/ the Peacocks:
Missing Pieces
Sixteen Saltines
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Cannon (tease)
Love Interruption
Hotel Yorba
Top Yourself
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Cannon
Hello Operator
I Cut Like a Buffalo
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
Blunderbuss
We’re Going to Be Friends
Screwdriver -> Blue Blood Blues
I’m Slowing Turning Into You
Ball and Biscuit
Encore:
Freedom at 21
Steady, As She Goes
Broken Boy Soldier
Seven Nation Army
Goodnight, Irene (Lead Belly cover)

 

Night 2 Setlist w/ the Buzzards:
Missing Pieces
Cannon / Sixteen Saltines / Cannon
Wasting My Time
Cannon / Freedom at 21
Love Interruption
Blunderbuss
Top Yourself
I Cut Like a Buffalo
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
Blue Blood Blues (w/ Another Way to Die tease)
Steady, As She Goes
Two Against One
We’re Going to Be Friends
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Broken Boy Soldier (tease) / Hello Operator
Ball and Biscuit
Encore:
The Hardest Button to Button
Take Me with You When You Go
Catch Hell Blues
Seven Nation Army

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