By Carter G. Shelter
The first fans were in line around 6 a.m. At 6:30 p.m., Madison Square Garden finally opened up its doors for the sold-out show, and Jack White’s loyal army of fans began filling this legendary venue.
The evening kicked off when rap duo Run the Jewels took the stage. Early in their set, they informed the crowd that they planned to “burn Madison Square Garden to the f*cking ground,” and proceeded to do just that. The highlight of the set was an appearance by Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha during “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F***).”
Following Run the Jewels’ set, curtains were pulled around the stage and the crew began preparing for Jack’s set. Soon enough the band started a noisy, cacophonous jam as the crowd cheered wildly and the curtains were drawn away. White flung himself across the stage, launching into the White Stripes hit “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.” The crowd sang along so ferociously, they nearly drowned out his vocals. This jolt of energy was followed up by the fiery instrumental “High Ball Stepper” and rap rocker “Lazaretto,” both off of last year’s Grammy-nominated “Lazaretto.”
An incredible medley of the early Stripes tune “Cannon” and the Raconteurs’s “Broken Boy Soldier” melded Zeppelin-esque heaviness with White’s twisted Americana to create something dark and eerily entrancing, and the amped-up and extended rendition of “Top Yourself” gave Jack room to introduce his fantastic band. He closed the first half of the show with “Ball and Biscuit,” a White Stripes number that, live, became a springboard for White to show off his impressive guitar skills with multiple solos over the song’s basic blues frame.
The band launched set two with another thunderous intro, sliding into “That Black Bat Licorice,” during which White brought out hip hop artist Q-Tip. The pair then busted out a guitar-infused cover of the A Tribe Called Quest’s “Excursions.” A genius pairing of “Sixteen Saltines” into the White Stripes’s “Astro” showed off Jack’s punk side, while “Steady, As She Goes” had him asking for the audience’s help singing the final chorus.
Jack brought the show to a climax by unleashing the monster riff of “Seven Nation Army.” Midway through the song, he laid his guitar down, climbed over the barrier into the audience, and was raised up by a crowd eager to worship rock and roll’s current Messiah. Jack praised the audience as his loudest New York crowd to date, and bid them good night with his now signature sign-off, “You’ve been incredible and I’ve been Jack White.”
There are some who are tired of seeing the name Jack White in music headlines, but there is a reason he is receiving as much acclaim as he is. When the audience is with him, something he repeatedly asks of them, they will be both witness and participant in something truly unique. During Friday night’s concert at The Garden, this statement could not ring more true.
Carter G. Shelter is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org