Live Review: Jack White, Edinburgh Usher Hall

This review originally ran in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on November 12, 2012.

For all of the White Stripes’ red, black and white insignia, their frontman Jack White has always been about the blues.

His lauded work has long been fuelled by blistering blues riffs, country-punk and R&B – from the White Stripes’ lo-fi garage, through The Raconteurs’ alt-rock and The Dead Weather’s psych-rock, to current solo album, Blunderbuss. Each of these vehicles was given a loud and thorough seeing-to at the Usher Hall.

White’s entrance was extraordinary, firing head-on into what felt like the screaming climax of an epic Led Zeppelin jam, and this sense of drama and sonic dexterity didn’t let up throughout. The spectacle came in two thrilling parts (both flushed in monochrome), serviced by White’s alternating backing bands. First up were the all-female, country-fried “Peacocks”, all vintage gowns, fiddles, double-bass and pedal steel (think Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video as re-cast by Tim Burton); then came the saloon-style all-male “Los Buzzardos”, whose raw and down-home virtuosity evoked The Bad Seeds and The Blockheads.

An early, searing-blues appearance from Blunderbuss highlight Sixteen Saltines testified to White’s enduring knack for shaking new life out of old traditions, as did the album’s porch-swing serenade Love Interruption, which saw White duet with Peacock Ruby Amanfu, their voices even closer than their faces and bodies (and that was close).

There were also string-drawn, big-band arrangements of back-catalogue favourites: the Peacocks-backed rock hoe-down of the Raconteurs’ Steady As She Goes and their thunderstruck country-prog variant of the Dead Weather’s I Cut Like A Buffalo; the Buzzardos-tooled rock-brawl on the White Stripes’ The Hardest Button To Button, and an incendiary Seven Nation Army that saw the voluble crowd drown out White’s almighty blues-force. No small feat.

(Jack White photo by Jo McCaughey)

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