How long exactly is “a long period of time”? That’s the question plaguing the minds of Jack White fans who yesterday received the news that he would be “taking a break” from gigging for an indefinite period, once he’s completed this weekend’s Coachella set and a brief tour of the five US states he hasn’t yet performed in. If you’re in mourning – we certainly are – console yourself with these magnificent clips cataloguing Jack White’s most spectacular live performances.
The White Stripes, full set, The Gold Dollar, Detroit
This half-hour of grainy, hand-held footage showcases The White Stripes’ authentic roots in Detroit’s Gold Dollar Bar, five months after their self-titled debut was released. Aside from Jack and Meg White’s striking youth and energy, their potential is what’s clearest. After opening with ‘Screwdriver’ they showcase material from their 2000 album ‘De Stijl’ before closing with Iggy Pop’s ‘I’m Bored’. “You guys are beautiful!” calls a crowd member. They are, aren’t they?
The White Stripes, ‘Expecting’, London Forum
Looking like he’s just escaped from a child’s idea of prison, an entirely orange-clad Jack White – with a swagger that only a couple of years and a shedload of critical acclaim can bestow – stalks the stage bashing out ‘Expecting’ from third album ‘White Blood Cells’. Hair down to his nose, he spits out the lyrics out like poison.
The White Stripes, ‘Jolene’, The Empress Ballroom, Blackpool
Prefacing this cover, filmed for The White Stripes’ first DVD release, ‘Under Blackpool Lights’, Jack White mourns not being part of The Beatles’ era: “I’m in the right place at the wrong time? That’s how I feel every day.” What follows is White performing at his most wounded and sensitive – before screaming out the final chorus in desperation. Let’s see Dolly give it that much.
The White Stripes, ‘Death Letter’, Glastonbury
If you like your blues intros extended and your endings climactic, this rendition of Son House’s ‘Death Letter’ is just for you. The song appeared in four-minute form on the band’s second album ‘De Stijl’, but for the penultimate song of their headline set at Glastonbury, they let its magic continue for seven and a half. Creepy goatee aside, White’s performance here is virtuosic.
The Raconteurs, ‘Blue Veins’, Bonnaroo Festival
If you want to know how to make the smooth transition from lush strumming to rolling on the floor, shredding the fretboard, this is your ‘how to’. Six minutes in, White becomes possessed by the spirit of the blues, body writhing, and falls into the amps at the front of the stage, playing all the while. When Madonna fell off the stage at the Brits, she recovered pretty well, but White doesn’t need to recover here, because there’s nothing to recover from. Pure class.
The Dead Weather, ‘Die By The Drop’, Nashville
When a crowd’s more immobile than Winston Churchill’s upper lip, it can be pretty off-putting. Luckily, Jack White doesn’t need to soak up the ‘energy’ of a crowd to give a barnstorming performance, as he proves here drumming and singing with his supergroup The Dead Weather. This performance was streamed live from Third Man Records, White’s indie label, on Myspace back in 2010, when black-and-white video was apparently the shit.
‘Seven Nation Army’, Glastonbury
Know when you just can’t get enough of falling over? Jack White has that all the time. Doesn’t matter whether he’s performing with The Raconteurs or just solo – he bloody loves it. This magisterial performance of The White Stripes’ once ubiquitous tune ‘Seven Nation Army’ culminates with a manic drum’n’guitar noise-athon before White drops his guitar, knocks over his drummer and merrily falls into the drumkit. “I hope you fall in love today with something,” he says as he leaves the stage. The big softie.
‘The Lemon Song’ with Robert Planet, Lollapalooza, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ignore the new haircut: this is the collaboration you’ve been waiting for. White acts as lead guitarist for Plant, performing Led Zep’s ‘The Lemon Song’, but eventually the two voices come together when White joins in singing. Though they’re performing as peers, there’s a sense that you’re watching Plant’s influence on White being exerted live – and it’s pretty special.