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Live review: Jack White at Alexandra Palace

Jack White at Alexandra Palace, November 2, 2012. Picture: Shot2Bits/Alexandra Palace Jack White at Alexandra Palace, November 2, 2012. Picture: Shot2Bits/Alexandra Palace

Monday, November 12, 2012
9:06 PM

The first night of Jack White’s weekend of gigs in the cavernous Great Hall finds him getting straight down to scintillating business.

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Jack White at Alexandra Palace, November 2, 2012. Picture: Shot2Bits/Alexandra PalaceJack White at Alexandra Palace, November 2, 2012. Picture: Shot2Bits/Alexandra Palace

No introduction, no mucking about, White marches onto the stage, brandishes his guitar and lunges into a sizzling version of The Hardest Button To Button, accompanied by his all-male, sharp-suited backing band The Buzzards.

It stomps like hell, and White’s in no mood to mess. A safe move, some might say; but with a repertoire extending from the garage-blues of The White Stripes to the ear-shredding Dead Weather and handmade blues-rock of The Raconteurs, not to mention this year’s triumphant solo Blunderbuss, almost anything would have got the crowd sweating.

Hardly known for his chattiness, the best we get from White all night is early on. ‘You don’t like that, you don’t like ice cream,’ he states as a steel guitar noodles away. Quite.

Reworked and embellished under icy blue lights by The Buzzards’ double bass, keys, violin, drums and guitars, it’s the older Stripes material that is given a new lease of life tonight.

Jack White at Alexandra Palace, November 2, 2012. Picture: Shot2Bits/Alexandra PalaceJack White at Alexandra Palace, November 2, 2012. Picture: Shot2Bits/Alexandra Palace

While the breakneck Hotel Yorba flashes past, the fiddle-drenched rejigging of We’re Gonna Be Friends, rhythmically overhauled, remakes it anew.

The Same Boy You’ve Always Known, an intimate confession on record, is expertly fleshed out while Cuts Like A Buffalo, from White’s Dead Weather, remained a searingly heavy slab unaltered. His new material is just as rapturously received, too.

This arguably reveals White’s true talent, keeping the spirit of his songs alive no matter how they are recast.

Slipping in a blast furnace version of Big Joe Williams’ Baby, Please Don’t Go before seguing into an incendiary Ball And Biscuit, meatier yet losing none of the swagger of the original, the ghoulish White leaves on a high, before The Raconteurs’ snappy Steady As She Goes opens the encore.

After the predatory blast of Freedom At 21, ending with his pianist playing one piano while his feet knock out notes on another behind him, Seven Nation Army wraps it up, sprinkled with heavily-treated guitar twiddles, honky-tonk piano and bouts of monumental singalongs to the signature riff. An awesome sign-off.

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