Last time Jack White was scheduled to grace the Duke City, the show was unexpectedly cancelled days before, due to “sister”/ex-wife/band mate Meg White’s “clinical exhaustion.” Thousands of devastated fans received full refunds, and were forced to wait.
Tuesday night White was finally back, bringing down a packed house at Popejoy Hall. The booking was a major coup for UNM’s Student Special Events — just a few nights ago he was playing a sold out show at Madison Square Garden. Despite the fact that this crowd was a fraction of the size, White and his five fellow band members gave everything they had, and gave UNM a revelatory rock ‘n’ roll experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Starting off the evening was Los Angeles Latin psych-funk band Chicano Batman. Though not well known outside California, it quickly became clear why they were chosen to accompany White for a leg of the Lazaretto tour. With tight, melodic, super-funky guitar riffs over Latin rhythms with a drizzling of Doors-esque organs, the four-piece band did a great job warming up the crowd.
If Santana and The Mars Volta had a mutant, four-headed child, it might look and sound a lot like Chicano Batman. The group played a tight, energetic set, swinging elegantly from Latin funk grooves to psychedelic instrumental freak-outs.
After intermission, every person in the audience was standing on their toes in electric anticipation for White. The mood in the crowd was summed up perfectly by concert-goer Barry Blonder: “If you’re going to sit down, go home. This ain’t a poetry reading.”
When the curtains parted, there he stood, wearing a dark Western shirt tucked into black jeans and a pompadour like a dark Elvis. He has shed the red and white candy stripes of his early career, but it was immediately clear that his sound and his attitude, if anything, has only gotten bigger and nastier.
Without uttering a word, the band launched into “Lazaretto,” the title track of the tour and his latest solo album. The sound in the small space was legendary, shaking the walls and the bowels of everyone in the crowd.
As the band moved into “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” the ferocious pace did not let up, and continued to the last note, although the band pulled back a bit for softer songs like “Hypocritical Kiss.”
The set list spanned his career, including decades-old classics and new singles. The high point of the show was the grungy lick-laden song “Ball and Biscuit.” His guitar, which was connected to a static-filled TV screen, left not a single face un-melted.
After an extended encore, which began with a blistering rendition of “Black Math” and ended with a re-imagined “Seven Nation Army,” the crowd was thoroughly satisfied, and spilled into the cold night air with weakened knees, ringing ears and happy hearts. Never again will Popejoy be filled with such an unadulterated, loud, and joyous sound.
Jonathan Baca is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JonGabrielB.