Jack White/Run the Jewels – Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 1/30/15 (SHOW REVIEW)

Jack White is one of the few rock stars doing it right these days and on a freezing Friday night in the heart of the Big Apple he displayed his chops but also paid homage to New York City Hip Hop.

It started with the opening act, as Run The Jewels were asked to perform just the week before. Killer Mike and El-P are riding high off of the success from their critically acclaimed Run The Jewels 2 release and seemed to be in awe of playing at the Garden backed by DJ Trackstar. While not everyone in attendance was a fan of the duo they put on a high energy set that included guests Boots on guitar and vocals for “Early” and a rip roaring Zach De La Rocha appearance for “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”.

After the hip hop and a polite message to put down cell phones, White blasted onto the stage dressed in all black with his well versed backing band, launching into “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”. The riff heavy instrumental “High Ball Stepper” was next as Jack worked the packed house into a frenzy as the band seemed to feed off of the big stage. “Lazaretto” complete with its bouncy beats, Spanish lyrics and changes went down smooth while “Hotel Yorba” started the first of many sing-alongs.

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Clearly in a good mood and smiling often, White took some extra time to comb his jet black pompadour/princeton haircut in between songs all night. Unlike past NYC shows there was no cutting it short though as the band slammed into tracks from his past. “Top Yourself” strutted with confidence, “We’re Going to Be Friends” was delicate and “Temporary Ground” floated along on Lillie Mae Rische’s violin strings. Taking over the keyboards for the deceased Ikey Owens this tour is White’s longtime friend Dean Feritita who plays in both the Dead Weather and as the touring keyboardist for The Raconteurs.

It was another ivory player though on “Three Women” who deserves mention as White himself got loose on the piano, putting the show into a higher gear with his take on the barroom blues tune. Things were soaring as White went ballistic (back on guitar this time) for “Ball and Biscuit” causing an explosion of sound prompting the band to leave for a miniscule set break post song.

White commented during the night on the direct lineage of the blues with hip-hop (specifically NYC based bands like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash) and when the band rocked “That Black Bat Licorice” he welcomed Q-Tip to help him out with the lyrics. A fantastic pairing which only got better when bassist Dominic Davis strummed the opening notes to “Excursions” as Q-Tip wowed the audience with the classic Tribe Called Quest track.

White crashed headlong back into the punk rock vein via “Sixteen Saltines” and the raw “Astro” which thumped extra hard behind the full band arrangement. As the show started to close the drama was ramped up with some of Whites best solo lyrical songs “Would You Fight For My Love?” and “Blunderbuss” both hit the emotional mark. Some crowd participation was in order for “Steady, As She Goes” and that was before the whole sold-out house was chanting along with the show closing “Seven Nation Army” which was inspiring in its arena glory.

White’s newest songs contain deep grooves (thanks in part to manic drummer Daru Jones) and on this night they were evident; bumping with passion and energy. The tying together of rock/blues/hip-hop, old/new/futuristic was invigorating as White and his switchblade sharp band amazed from the get go. While he sails the seas of rock and roll, White clearly knows where it comes from and is currently the main player as to where it is going.

Jack White Setlist Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, USA 2015, Lazaretto

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