Jack White at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, 26th June 2014
“Just as I am always scared of water/But not afraid of standing out in the rain,” Jack White sings to an IMMA crowd. Cheers go up from the rain-sodden masses, appreciative of the pointedness. Would You Fight For This Love? the song asks. Yes, Jack, it seems we would.
It seems to be a mutual feeling too. Indeed, Mr White himself fights through being unplugged to see the crowd off at the end of the show with a version of folk standard Goodnight, Irene, The Kills returning to the stage to try and put some weight behind the pure acoustic cover.
It’s The Kills who open the endampened evening, cutting their typical cool across the stage. Alison Mosshart, in particular embraces the heirdom to rock chick prototype, all dirty-blonde hair, screams and skinny jeans. When she sits down for a cigarette during Tape Song it looks so effortlessly cool that you feel she must be working extreme hard.
Perhaps though, it’s not what the crowd needed. Their sound fails to really cut through the precipitation, even with fine songs like Black Balloon and Monkey 23. A more rabble-rousing would have provided some levity to the field weighed down by the rain.
That is what White provides straight away; arriving onstage in a loud blue suit with glowing white shoes and hat. The instrumental High Ball Stepper, intercut with riffs from Kanye’s Black Skinhead, is an opening shot in the arm that the evening needs. His familiar guitar shrieks slicing the air with intent.
It’s a shame that this pointed playing isn’t maintained throughout. Even Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground which follows it up is a little flat. The crowd try to sing along but White is too often snatching at the lyrics instead of letting them flow through the mic.
It’s something the show is guilty of a number of times, really. White, with his bulked up band, often plays around the core of the song. There was a beautiful simplicity about The White Stripes in their heyday, where White now can be accused of putting too much sound into his songs. Lazaretto, in particular, just seems disjointed. Love Interruption – sung as a duet with Mosshart – doesn’t really work either; both White and Mosshart seem more intent on acting to the crowd than really singing the song.
When he does get it back though, it’s thrilling. The precociously brilliant Ball and Biscuit; the sensitive You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket; the driving cover of The Stooges I Wanna Be Your Dog; they make standing in the rain worth the while. It’s here that he earns the credit to allow him his more disjointed ramblings.
The fevered Little Bird is probably the highlight of the evening. Following on from a rather prosaic beginning White throws his guitar down on his monitor and swipes furiously at it with a slide around his finger. It’s a throwback to White’s garage-rock roots and it’s an exhilarating blunderbuss of a spectacle. After that, even the monster riff that is Seven Nation Army is a little bit of a letdown.
When White gets it right, he is difficult to match. There are low points, when White’s tangents get the better of the show; a side-effect of his prodigious talent. He certainly stores up the credit throughout the rest of the show to carry it through.