It’s not like Jack White’s been away from the spotlight in recent years – there’s The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, the ‘It Might Get Loud’ film, the collaborations, the production credits, various Third Man Records shenanigans, and, of course, final confirmation that The White Stripes were no more.
So why does this feel like a comeback, like we’ve missed him? Maybe it’s because, with the release of debut solo album ‘Blunderbuss’, he’s back out there front and centre for the first time in a while, and tonight proves that’s where he belongs.
He might spend the first few songs with his face largely hidden under a fetching fedora, but he’s still instantly recognisable, exuding the kind of star power that few on this bill, save for tonight’s headliner, can yet match. Even more thrillingly, despite his new (and excellent) solo endeavours, he’s not precious about playing the older stuff – indeed, he starts off with ‘Black Math’, which begins at a bluesier, organ-fuelled pace, before exploding into the furiousness that came as standard when he and Meg used to do it.
The gang of musicians White hangs round with these days keep things a bit more refined, with a giant keyboard set-up that looks like it could take off at some point, with lap steel, an upright bass and, yes, drums, reflecting the rootsier nature of some of the ‘Blunderbuss’ songs, as well as giving a welcome blast of ‘Hotel Yorba’ an alt-country feel.
That’s not to say they blunt the edge of the harsher-sounding new ones, especially as that trademark screechy guitar is still at the forefront, with ‘Freedom At 21’ packing the same punch live that it does on record and ‘Take Me With You When You Go’ even more effective with White eyeballing you as he sings it.
We get a few more career highlights, with the schoolyard chant of The Dead Weather’s ‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’ and a crunching, mosh-friendly version of Raconteurs high point ‘Steady As She Goes’, and then the ground shakes – guess what he finishes with? You bet, an absolutely blinding version of ‘Seven Nation Army’, greeted like a long lost friend.
With the famous riff having taken on a new life as a football chant, the crowd sing it at the top of their lungs, and you wonder from how far away out of this tent it can be heard. A remarkable show, and even though technically he’s not been away for that long, Jack is well and truly back.