JACK WHITE, The Garage – Evening Standard, 29 March 2018

Perhaps not since Prince’s guerilla gigs in 2014 have such lengthy queues formed in hope of seeing a big musician in a small room. In addition to this evening’s launch of his third solo album in the 600-capacity Garage, a last minute afternoon pub gig near London Bridge sent London Jack White crazy yesterday.

Also like Prince, these days you get something different framing his personal virtuosity each time he comes around. Leaving behind his bands The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, this time his crack troupe offered the surprising sight of this mighty guitarist being outnumbered by two keyboard players. Surreal new song Corporation saw his guitar riffs mirrored by heavy organ squalls.

Always a stickler for rules that he enforced upon himself, which in the past included performing with just guitar and drums or using the most rudimentary recording techniques, with Boarding House Reach it’s not so much that he’s mellowed, more got weirder. Relaxing the restrictions meant whirlwind guitar work on Over and Over and Over, drum pads and lyrical craziness on Why Walk a Dog?, and funk rock rapping on Ice Station Zebra.

As an album, the new material is notable for its experimental wildness rather than any classic songwriting. The arrival of stadium favourite Seven Nation Army late on reminded the crowd what he can do with a tighter focus. Another oldie, Hello Operator, was beautifully simple, though ironic given that he sealed our phones in impenetrable pouches on entry. But this freewheelin’ Jack White was a wildly unpredictable live performer.

With three microphones in front of him as though he was about to announce his resignation from a poorly performing football club, he twisted his voice and marshalled his band to exhilarating heights. The space was small but his ambition was bigger than ever.

 

June 26-28, Eventim Apollo, W6 (0844 249 1000, eventimapollo.com)

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