Jack White’s Boarding House Reach tour stopped in Upstate New York on Sunday, May 27th of Memorial Day weekend and while the constant rains made for a cold and muddy night, the guitar work, excellent song choices and deep grooves got the crowd at Cooperstown’s Ommegang Brewery warmed up.
Opening the show was Third Man Records recording artist Lillie Mae who brought her down-home Nashville family affair to the scenic outdoor venue. With her brother to her right delivering top-notch electric guitar picking she focused on her recent Forever and Then Some release. “Loner”, the classic country of “Honky Tonks and Taverns” and the backwoods grooving “Wash Me Clean” all showcased the front woman’s immense skills on acoustic guitar, fiddle and vocals. The opening set highlight arrived when the group displayed blazing technical skills on a swirling “El Chumbachero”; mixing Russian waltzing flair with galloping low end all around fiery guitar/fiddle runs.
As the cloud filled skies grew even darker and the light rain continued to fall over the rolling Cooperstown hills, Jack White and company took the stage to Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare” and dropped into “Over and Over and Over”, kick-starting a long set of tunes. His White Stripe past was focused on early with the garage rock clanging of “I Think I Smell a Rat” and “When I Hear My Name” both stomped out by the wet and mud-caked boots of the sold-out crowd.
White’s new electronic groove focus came to the forefront on the preaching “Corporation” but it was the jammed out “Get in the Mind Shaft” later in the set which was exploratory. Quincy McCrary and Neil Evans dueled on keyboards before building up the set-closing “Connected By Love” all accentuated by Dominic Davis bass warbles. However, the crowd seemed to enjoy the more restrained/familiar numbers as both “We’re Going to Be Friends” and “Love Interruption” received loud ovations from the soggy fans.
The quintet became fully locked in during “Hotel Yorba” which featured exuberant hillbilly piano work that elevated the oft-played tune before a well sung “Blunderbuss” increased the drama. It was the following run that proved the highlight of the night, and found White in showman mode as he tore down the house with metallic blues riffs for the incendiary “Catch Hell Blues”, banged the piano and drums to power through a dexterous “Trash Tongue Talker” before dripping into the surprising blues-soaked cover of Bob Dylan’s “Catfish”.
While a noted baseball fan (and bat maker) White was sure to reference the hometown of the Baseball Hall of Fame, yet covering the Dylan outtake and singing about the Million Dollar Man getting off Mr. Finley’s Oakland farm and putting on his alligator boots in the Bronx was a surprise as the group gorgeously navigated the tune for the first time.
Another cover surprise, fitting White and company like a glove, was the encore opening brief spin on Johnny Kidd & the Pirates “Shakin’ All Over” which melted into a booming “Icky Thump” lead by Carla Azar’s huge bass drum. The power drumming continued as slicing guitar feedback and chants were also rolled out for “Battle Cry” before the hip-hop inspired “Ice Station Zebra”. To close the night the storytelling White sang “Same Boy You’ve Always Known” and ramblingly gorgeous “Carolina Drama” before the ringing mega riffs of “Seven Nation Army” put an exclamation point on the proceedings.