Review: Jack White Live in Vancouver

Jack White live in Vancouver review by Leslie Ken Chu. The June 7, 2022 performance also featured Utah rockers the Backseat Lovers
Jack White Live in Vancouver photo by James White Swanson

It’s hard to pin down what sounds Jack White’s going to lay down on record these days, be it divisive, collage-like musical experiments or back-to-basics acoustic ballads. (In 2022, fans get both with the ferocious Fear of the Dawn, out last April, and the folk collection Entering Heaven Alive, due July 22.) But as he showed a not-quite-sold-out crowd at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver last night, when it comes to being a live performer, he can always be counted on for consistency.

If openers the Backseat Lovers can do the same with the showing they put on last night, the Utah rockers are bound to go far. And the outlook is good, as the early crowd greeted the foursome with more than just polite applause, which only escalated as the band dispensed rumbling hard rock that conjured Black Sabbath but with the melodic ear of Led Zeppelin. It’s easy to get carried away emulating rock gods playing this kind of music, but the band remained grounded; their spirited performance never felt shallow. By the end of their set, they’d clearly won new fans.

Even before the stage curtain lifted to reveal White and his trio of musicians—bassist Dominic Davis, drummer Daru Jones, and keyboardist Quincy McCrary—distorted instrumentals mounted. This swell kick off a roaring momentum that endured for most of the set, which drew from his most successful bands—the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, and the White Stripes—as well as his four available solo albums. He even played a couple of songs from Entering Heaven Alive, including its first single, “Love Is Selfish,” and a full preview of new single “If I Die Tomorrow,” which he announced to the audience was coming out today.

The greatest joy of White’s shows is the endless ways he reinterprets his songs—one never knows which route he’ll take on a beloved classic, or even on fresh material. Last night’s highlights included a slowed down, extra menacing version of the already sinister “Cannon” and a totally absorbing rendition of the haunting “I Fought Piranhas.” It was also a treat to hear the band stretch the even-keel “Steady, As She Goes” into an extensive jam ridged with all manner of solos.

For longtime Stripes fans who’ve seen White perform numerous times, it was refreshing to hear rarer live songs like “Black Math,” even at the expense of glaring omissions like staples “Fell in Love with a Girl” and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.” Those fans likely have stronger reservations about his later day studio experiments, but such purists can rest easy: his more questionable creative exercises always come across better live, largely due to the sheer power he pumps into them. “Corporation” and “What’s the Trick?” ripped as hard as the searing “High Ball Stepper,” blues rock titan “Ball and Biscuit,” the sizzling “Black Bat Licorice,” which McCrary slapped some extra funk on, and crushers “Taking Me Back” and “Fear of the Dawn.” The skilled quartet even knocked “Hi-De-Ho” out of the park despite having to play around a pre-recording of the song’s guest, A Tribe Called Quest rap legend Q-Tip.

Despite the payoff of White’s daring sonic explorations, it was hard to deny the return on investment when White & co. went back to basics with straight-ahead riff-rocker “Sixteen Saltines,” the lulling “We’re Going to Be Friends,” and the piano rock perfection that is “You Don’t Understand Me.” “Hotel Yorba” formed a perfect bridge between economy and virtuosity—who knew the wholesome and simplistic number could sound so good with lively keys warping and wending around its acoustic riff?

Though it’s hard to pin down what Jack White’s going to do at any given moment, it’s not impossible. He concluded his 25-song set with the hit that fills sports stadiums around the world, the anthemic “Seven Nation Army.” Predictable, maybe, but reassuringly consistent.

Words by Leslie Ken Chu


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