If there’s an artist today who’s doing more than Jack White to revive the spirit of kick-out-the-jams rock ‘n’ roll that fueled the ‘60s and ‘70s, you’d be hard-pressed to convince his fans. The ex-White Stripes front man has been churning out honest, from-the-soul music for 15 years, drawing from punk, blues, psychedelic rock and even country – and not one note doesn’t ring true.
The eight-time Grammy winner is best-known for the White Stripes’ song “Seven Nation Army,” which has become an international stadium anthem, with fans chanting out its signature guitar riff at sporting events including the Super Bowl and the World Cup. But White’s diverse repertoire ensures that he won’t be pigeonholed by that track’s global appeal.
On Sunday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach, White made the near-capacity crowd feel as if it were transported to a time when music erupted from artists in a creative burst, rather than being planned and packaged by some marketing team for the Top 40. Taking the stage for the first of his two-night gig in support of his chart-topping new solo album “Lazaretto,” White crackled with energy, his voice raging with controlled hysteria and his guitar playing buzzing with pure, vicious release.
White and his band – featuring a delightful selection of instruments uncommon in rock, such as a fiddle, mandolin, upright bass and even a theremin (!) – commanded attention from the get-go, kicking the set off with the raw, in-your-face instrumental “High Ball Stepper,” which dripped with distorted guitar crunch and crashing drums. “Lazaretto” kept up the frantic pace, its fuzzed-out, funky guitar riffs and White’s sneering, staccato vocals almost like a tribute to old-school Beastie Boys.
Many concerts go through a lull toward the middle, where the crowd’s enthusiasm wanes because that’s where the lesser-known or less popular tracks tend to pop up. White refused to allow that to happen. Everything he chose to perform was compelling, from a more rocking version of the new “Just One Drink,” which recalled “Exile On Main Street”-era Stones; to the gleeful country stomper “Hotel Yorba,” with its bouncy fiddle solo and sing-along chorus; to “Top Yourself” by The Raconteurs, another of White’s old bands, which closed out the brisk, 40-minute first set by showing off his top-notch rock scream (think Robert Plant’s howl with a more unsettling edge).
After a brief break, White jolted the crowd back into a state of hysteria with the punk primal energy of the White Stripes’ classic “Fell In Love With a Girl,” followed by the swaggering boogie-rock track “I Cut Like a Buffalo, during which he performed trippy vocal solos on a separate microphone. White was like a mad scientist onstage, an endless fountain of wonderfully bizarre creativity, whether by using his voice, his guitar, or simply leading his band into impromptu jams.
His shaman-like spell over the crowd continued with “Missing Pieces,” a blissful frenzy of sound from his first solo album “Blunderbuss,” and the power-chord rocker “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known.”
White didn’t address the crowd much, but during the middle of his cover of Hank Williams’ pleasant country romp “You Know That I Know,” he lamented, “I sure wish I could slow dance with every one of you Miami girls now,” before ending the second set with another White Stripes favorite, the wistful front-porch jam “We’re Going to Be Friends.”
The crowd obviously knew what was coming up for the encore, and began chanting like soccer hooligans (“Ohh-OH-oh-oh-ohhh-ohhh!”) in anticipation of “Seven Nation Army.” White made them wait, however, reemerging with the rock ‘n’ roll blitzkrieg “Icky Thump,” with its blistering guitar solos and vicious vocals. But the pandemonium – and sea of pumping fists – that met the inevitable final song, was as thunderous as if the home team had scored the winning goal.