Gig review: Jack White, Glasgow SSE Hydro

Jack White and his band played with 'a commitment to cacophony which came at the cost of the original song'. Picture: Getty
Jack White and his band played with 'a commitment to cacophony which came at the cost of the original song'. Picture: Getty
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Jack White brings his solo show to Glasgow’s SSE Hydro, with ‘a commitment to cacophony’

Jack White

Glasgow SSE Hydro

Rating: * * *

Compared to the massive, sprawling productions which now roll through the Hydro on a weekly basis, this was a pretty intimate, intense gathering, with Jack White and his band – a composite of the separate all-male and all-female outfits he has toured with in recent years – packed in close and most of the audience eschewing the upper tiers of seating in order to stand in the arena. Fair enough - White generally gives the kind of performance you want to stand up for.

On this occasion, White and his musicians elected to fill the space in other ways – with a commitment to cacophony which frequently came at the cost of the original song. No track was dispatched in a straightforward manner when it could be doctored, distorted and distended. Opener Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground was at least discernible through the morass of squealing feedback, mountainous keyboard riffs, fuzz guitar wrangling and keening vocals whipped up by the group but the driving caveman boogie of Broken Boy Soldier was amped up to the point of collapse and even a relatively straightforward run through Steady As She Goes was interrupted by a playful reference to The Police’s Message In A Bottle.

The results were, by turns, indulgent and invigorating but lacking the variety and definition which White’s solo and band back catalogue invites. Drummer Daru Jones was often on his feet, bashing the life out of his skins, but this unfettered blowout, applied indiscriminately to White Stripes, Raconteurs and solo material, risked becoming one of those gigs you needed to sit down for.

One subtlety was observed rigidly – adherence to the dual colour palette of powder blue and black which White has adopted in his solo guise. Even the lightshow conformed to the colour code, with the stage bathed throughout in a ghostly hue which didn’t quite match the red-blooded rock’n’roll carnage being enacted under the beams.

Mercifully, it wasn’t all a testosterone-fuelled pissing contest. With the volume tempered for a bluegrass version of Hotel Yorba, you could actually hear the audience singing along and Lillie Mae Rische fiddling in the melee, and there was a similar front porch feel to We’re Going To Be Friends before the wrecking crew mentality kicked in again on a hit-stuffed encore, culminating in a particularly crunchy Seven Nation Army with further audience accompaniment.

FIONA SHEPHERD