Live Review and Photos: Jack White and Alabama Shakes, May 21st, 2012, Roseland Ballroom – New York, NY

Photos by Evan Kaloudis

Okay, okay, we get it. You weren’t the biggest fan of Blunderbuss. It was no White Blood Cells, anyway. It sounded a little lazy. It was occasionally boring.

But it also occasionally kicked ass. Lots of ass.

On May 21st, Jack White stretched the strongest moments from Blunderbuss into a 90-minute set that, with only a few exceptions, focused on his most aggressive material, spanning his entire career and every one of his bands. Though White frequently revisited the material from the days with his ex-wife, he made no attempt to replicate his ex-sound, and man, did the new band sound good. Concert opener “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” sounded even better here than it does on White Blood Cells, thanks in large part to a superb backing band. Everyone was top notch, especially Jack’s new drummer, who showed no interest in mimicking Meg, and his bass player, who proved that even though The White Stripes never sounded like they needed bass, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

Jack himself was in top form. For a guy edging ever closer to 40, there was not the slightest indication of a Fat Elvis future. He danced around the stage looking like Jack Skeleton, and man oh man can he still sing. “Sixteen Saltines” sounded great stripped of the double-tracked vocals that bog down the studio recording, and he even adopted a slight country croon on that old Hank tune “You Know that I Know,” which felt out of place here, but in the best way possible. Jack’s voice is as piercing as ever, and if the devil himself could sing, I’d imagine they’d sound a hell of a lot alike.

Lead single “Love Interruption” was surprisingly absent from the set, but no one seemed to mind. When White started into “Seven Nation Army” at the end of the night, I imagine he could have spent the previous hour and a half playing Norah Jones songs on the harpsichord and the audience would have still left feeling like they’d gotten their money’s worth. He didn’t, but he could have, and I know at least one guy that would have left smiling.

Alabama Shakes