It happened just this past weekend. Jack White, considered by some to be the most powerful, talented and mysterious man in the music business, rode into town to grace us with his presence at Track 29 for a performance that would go down in the annals of local live show legend, like The Who at Memorial Auditorium in the 1960s or the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Nucleus in the mid-’80s. Rock royalty was rolling in.
The few weeks leading up to the show were shrouded in the same kind of Jack White smoke-and-mirror hat tricks that make you wonder what he eats, if he puts his pants on one leg at a time, or if his shit stinks. The concert was, after all, his first-ever solo show (at least under his own name). It was also the opening show of a tour to promote his first ever solo album, “Blunderbuss,” which is not to be released until late April, so we weren’t sure exactly what he was going to play. And, according to at Track 29, no one at the venue was aware of what Jack had in mind as far as a backing band or stage set-up until practically the day of the event. All of this made it very difficult to anticipate the dynamics of whatever it was everyone was so excited about.
Regardless of the details, this show promised to be epic. It wasn’t going to be the White Stripes. We knew that. The Raconteurs? Old news. The Dead Weather? Who’s that? This was going to be ... this was going to be … well no one really knew what it was going to be, but if Jack White was involved it was going to be good. So good that fans from around the globe vied for the same scarce allotment of 1,700 tickets as those local fans who could see the venue from their house—and the show sold out in less than five minutes. Rolling Stone magazine, MTV and other major music outfits were even sending reporters to cover the event—just to be the first to tell the world what it was Jack had up his sleeve this time.
Thankfully, a week before the show Jack debuted his new persona on “Saturday Night Live.” The world hunkered down around the television set as if The Beatles were playing the “The Ed Sullivan Show” again just to see what Jack was going to play. After several excruciating skits featuring host Lindsay Lohan, he finally came on. Wow! A cool new song and an all-female backing band. OK, now we could relax until his second appearance later in the show. Then he came on again. Another cool new song. But wait—an all-dude backing band. Two different backing bands? How mysterious. What did this mean for our upcoming live experience?
Finally, our patient wait had come to an end. Saturday, March 10, turned up on the calendar and Chattanooga became the epicenter of all that is rock ‘n’ roll of late. Luckily, I had a golden ticket.
After sitting through a virtually unlistenable (yet Jack White handpicked) opening act, Hell Beach, we all stared for 30 minutes at a stage draped in three white panels and blue lights animated only by the silhouettes of White’s dapper road crew before the man himself appeared with his harem of female backing performers—one of whom was visibly pregnant.
Surrounded by a drummer, stand-up bassist, steel guitarist, violinist, keyboardist and backing vocalist/tambourine-ist all donned in white flowing dresses, Jack launched into the White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” like it was the Super Bowl Halftime Show. In fact, it seemed as if Jack had traded Meg White rubbing two sticks together for a Zippo lighter as his new band blazed through a half-dozen or more White Stripes songs and many others during the nearly 20 song set.