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Taken from NOLA (May 06, 2018)

Jack White was Jack White at Jazz Fest, which was pretty darn good

by Chelsea Brasted, cbrasted@nola.com
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Jack White plays on the closing day of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Jack White has done a lot of things I love.

I heard him do a guitar solo for The Raconteurs' "Blue Veins" in 2008 that still ranks as one of the most impressive musical feats I've ever seen. When I traveled to Nashville in March this year, my husband and I made a point to make the pilgrimage to his Third Man Records just because we trust his musical judgement, and we're nerds and wanted some branded stickers. "Cold Mountain," in which White plays a small role, even counts as my favorite movie. (Not because he's in it, mind you. I'm not that obsessive, but it is a perk.)

And, obviously, I'm not alone in this. If in the past decade you've come within a mile of a stadium while some sport was being played inside it, you've most assuredly heard "Seven Nation Army," and Rolling Stone named White to its list of 100 Greatest Guitarists

But White's latest album -- "Boarding House Reach" -- is not really one of the things I love.

That isn't to say it doesn't have value; it's a moment in White's history that makes for some compelling stuff. As Brian Hiatt wrote in his March profile of White for Rolling Stone magazine, this is the album where control-freak-Jack White loosened up the reins a bit. He's historically recorded everything just about as analog as possible, making for an apparently maddening if not fascinating music partner in the studio. And so on "Boarding House Reach," White experiments, finding his footing in an electronically-infused world heretofore unknown to him. Thing is, not every step lands right.

All of this is to say, I wasn't sure I'd like what I heard at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Sunday (May 6). And it's why it was so much fun for my concerns to be proven futile.

In about 90 minutes and over more than two dozen songs, White and his blue-bedecked band took fans on a wailing, reverb-y, heady march through his distorted, bluesy wonderland. And though he mentioned twice his apparent unhappiness with his Jazz Fest time-slot (sorry, bud, but can't nobody bump Trombone Shorty from the closing set at the Acura Stage), he seemed to have fun, too. He even smiled once, I swear.

From the very beginning with "Over and Over and Over" and his shrieks of "Corporation," White's audience was with him every step, jumping and clapping or singing along. In the standing room only section, a flag for Third Man Records flapped in the breeze atop a handheld totem. Though the crowd lightened up by the end of things, those who remained were committed, as White noted himself.

"A vampire like me can't do that," he said. "My heart goes out to you. ... Thank you for standing out in the sun and listening to us."

His thanks came in the form of songs from across White's history, using sounds of his solo albums and those of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, with whom he last appeared at the festival under appropriately stormy skies.

For all of White's love of control, he did have one surprise for his New Orleans audience: Esther Rose, the local singer who provided backup on "What's Done is Done" for "Boarding House Reach." Shockingly, she wore red, a clear foil to the electric blue of the rest of White's band.

It was the Acura Stage audience, however, who sang backup on "Seven Nation Army," filling in the humming whir of sound between the heaviest bass lines. By its end, White stepped to centerstage with the rest of his band.

"You've been incredible," he said, "and I've been Jack White."

Indeed, sir. You have indeed.


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