Jack White at Lollapalooza, 8/5/12

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Photo by Erik Hess
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Jack White
Lollapalooza at Grant Park, Chicago
Sunday, August 5, 2012

There's no musician who has worked harder than Jack White over the past decade. As the figure within the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, and now his solo work, garagebluessoulrawkmeister White has done everything to deserve a coveted headlining slot at Lollapalooza. Now, what pray tell does he do with a couple hours and a couple bands? He turns the thing into an entry package for Jazz Fest 2013.

One of the lasting aspects of the career-summing show was the stage (and White's) decor. Constantly glimmering blue, the stage looked like a playground for werewolves or hounds from hell or Gollum or all of the above. With that as the setting, his pale skin and frizzy black hair made him into the Tim Burton character that seems to be populating White's recent solo album, Blunderbuss. This look proved fitting to separate our entertainer from his red/white/black motifs with Meg White, and raised the tension in the cool night air.
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Photo by Erik Hess
As White explored his Zep influences, the Delta blues, and even a little bit of bluegrass, there was no question that the Third Man Records magnate had detailed plans for what he wanted to unfold. Among the White Stripes songs, "Black Math" fuzzed along like an old Kinks melody, and "Hotel Yorba" found new life as a hoedown jam with his female backing band the Peacocks. At his absolute best was this new solo track with the Buzzards, "Take Me With You When You Go," which seemed to bring out the most new life in his playing. 


The familiar fireworks of the set were unsurprisingly saved for the encore. A run-through of "Steady, As She Goes" hit no snags, but it was a reminder of what White becomes depending upon who is onstage with him. Without a Meg, or a Brendan Benson, or an Alison Mosshart onstage, it was hard to shift the attention away from Jack White at any point -- and usually he's at his best when he can surprise us when we're not looking. 

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Jack White has always been the ultimate producer/collaborator, and putting him alone at the front has always been a tough sell for me.

Random Detail: Watching this show from multiple vantage points proved essential. Seeing the  "III" on the backdrop turn into smiling curtains from further back made the stage look alive. Then again, the thudding bass of Kaskade started filtering in from nearby was an unwelcome distraction.
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Photo by Erik Hess
Overheard: "This is good walking away music," one friend said to another as they exited during "Ball and Biscuit."

Setlist:
Sixteen Saltines
Black Math
 Missing Pieces
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Hypocritical Kiss
?
The Same Boy You've Always Known
Take Me With You When You Go
Love Interruption
Weep Themselves to Sleep
Hotel Yorba
Top Yourself
Blue Blood Blues
Ball and Biscuit

Encore:
Steady, As She Goes
The Hardest Button to Button
Freedom At 21
Seven Nation Army


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