“How you gonna do it alone?” Jack White sang on the day he released his first solo album. The line was from an old song, Top Yourself, by one of his three previous bands, The Raconteurs, but the question sounded especially pertinent.
As it turned out, he did it alone in considerable style, topping past projects with volume and quantity. Instead of his White Stripes foil, Meg White, he had a new female drummer and five more women to loom over with his guitar, like a newly single man throwing himself too fully into Match.com.
There is an all-male band too, making it doubly worth catching him at future shows to see the flipside of this picture, which was warm and organic with double bass, violin, organ and pedal steel, yet dominated by an electric guitar that shot sparks.
All in black from his hair to his shoes, rock’s Edward Scissorhands cut quite a dash beneath three thick white stripes on the backdrop, his harem arranged in a semi-circle around him. Thankfully, this was not a solo turn that tried to delete the past. He opened with a White Stripes song, Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, later including that band’s cute acoustic oldie We’re Going to be Friends and the inevitable singalong Seven Nation Army, and saving the most incendiary guitar work for the 2003 track Ball and Biscuit.
But the new material was not lacking for energy and drama either, from the sudden gear change in Take Me With You When You Go, which saw White leaping from a piano seat to pick up his guitar, to the brutal riffing of Sixteen Saltines.
The overpowering intimacy of The White Stripes was lost, inevitably, but this opening out of his sound brings more benefits. This extraordinary musician can do anything alone – this new chapter could be a long one.
June 21, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9 (0844 477 2000, o2academybrixton.co.uk)
June 22, HMV Apollo Hammersmith, W6 (0843 221 0100, hammersmithapollo.net)