It’s a good thing Jack White didn’t become a priest. The twist of fate that turned the seminary-school prospect into an aspiring rocker seemed truly meant to be this past Sunday at Lollapalooza.
The 37-year old artist took the stage with the calm air of a legend. Judging by the amount of promising musical projects he’s brought to the world, his integral role in bringing garage rock mainstream and an uncanny ability to keep live, internet and television audiences glued to his every move, White may have already achieved his merit.
Take one look at White and you would think that this man was born to be a rock star. The all-black attire he adorned on Sunday felt colorful amidst the backdrop provided by his incredibly talented, all-male backup band Los Buzzardos. As the night sky overtook Grant Park, it seemed fitting to watch White play as he faced the near Chicago skyline. As White addressed the massive crowd after songs like “Missing Pieces,” the rocker looked larger than life, equally fitting the impact his music was making that night.
As usual, his simplistic approach to the amalgamation of styles that create his signature blend of dirty, gritty rock and roll was entertainment at its best. The set encompassed the impressive amounts of music and musical projects White has spawned over his relatively short career, including The White Stripes hits like “Black Math,” The Raconteurs favorite “Steady as She Goes,” and new solo efforts like “Sixteen Saltines.”
Midway through this performance, the incredibly energetic Los Buzzardos stepped offstage to make room for The Peacocks, White’s all female backup band. The switch seemed perfect for the moment, proving the slight differences in musical prowess possessed by each respective band. In the case of The Peacocks, this meant soulful, resonant backup vocals that gave White’s tunes an almost gritty, Motown feel. With a wide array of musicians and sounds to offer, the set painted a beautiful portrait of the sort of live music experience Jack White’s efforts have made possible.
When watching any Jack White-led performance and even remotely familiar with his repertoire, it’s hard not to compare everything to the White Stripes. Being the talented musician’s introduction to the world, the now defunct band has risen to the highest of rock standards. Aiding this is the popular opinion that they were a very impressive group- their two-member compositions of guitar, drums and vocals so powerful that they could shake entire arenas. Because of the simplicity behind such impact, The White Stripes are a hard act to follow up.
When watching White’s solo efforts and considering The Stripe’s frenetic shows, it’s easy to see how they’re different. It’s hard to say that his new work is as full sounding – granted the surplus of talented musicians, great backing vocals, and more intricate song structures, The Stripes diminutive band structure never prevented them from seeming bigger than the world. Jack White’s musical maturity is apparent, even endearing, but the youthful flare that sparked The Stripes was something more unique. The musicians in the new efforts could shred all over White’s music probably better than he could, but they have to play together – The Stripes was drummer Meg playing off White, a chemistry that allowed for endless and countless random guitar solos in any key, no matter what the occasion.
But musically, Jack White is growing. His sound is hitting a point where he doesn’t need ridiculous guitar solos to make his songs fuller – the tunes already speak for themselves. He doesn’t need to act like a rock star because he is one. That status can only get you so far, and White seems too intelligent to let something like that stunt him to the ranks of bands like Poison. Perhaps maturity has made him too modest – the most endearing moment of the evening was when he had both bands come out and take a bow after their performances.
Instead, it’s starting to look like he’s more on his way to becoming a legend.