Jack White at Rough Trade

Jack White playing Rough Trade for the release of his new album, ‘Entering Heaven Alive’! How do I even review this fairly? I mean was it even a gig? Do I care, it’s Jack White?

I haven’t seen Jack White since he was touring for ‘Blunderbuss'(?) with two bands and you weren’t sure which band would play each night – and therefore which set list you were going to catch. Since then he has been leading the charge against phones at gigs. You might have noticed, I take the odd photo. His stance didn’t bother me. But as somebody who checks if my trains are still running throughout a gig and usually needs to make a sharp exist if I have any hope of getting home before 1am. I decided this was my point to bow out. So a chance to see Jack White in a small venue was not to be missed.

It was an early start. Doors were 11.30am and I was expecting people to be queuing early. Heading in with commuters reminds me that I don’t want to work in London. (But it would be so much easier for my gigging). There was already a queue building when I arrived just before 10am. No chance of me being at the narrow front of the stage.

Although I had my camera bag with me. I was expecting Jack’s team to announce that they wouldn’t let cameras in, or at the very least there should be no photographs. In the past, I’ve done what he has asked and other than a snap to say I was there, I have not photographed him. But it was worth the risk.

As I would expect from a Jack White gig, his Third Man team were all over Rough Trade organising everything before he arrived. Apparently he literally walking from his car on to the stage. He knows his team will have set everything up the way he wants it.

Let us just say this was a short set. I have only seen one shorter set at Rough Trade. The set came in under a slightly disappointing 20 minutes. I had expected a short set. He was playing three sets at his Third Man London record store that were 30 minutes long including crowd changeover and then heading to the Union Chapel to play a full set. But I hoped it was going to be a linger set.

One thing you can be sure of with Jack is his backing band will all be brilliant artists in their own right. He always seems to make sure he has good drummer, often picking jazz musicians who seem more adept at dealing with his habit of not having a set list. Odd, given Meg’s capabilities when they played as the White Stripes! Today’s drummer was the a case in point, reacting to Jack and vice versa.

With two albums released this year, Jack started with two from his last album, ‘Fear of the Dawn’. This is a pretty normal Jack White album but at contrasts with today’s release, with it’s semi-acoustic sound that draws on American folk music, with strong blues and country blues. While I usually prefer Jack’s full-on sound, I actually really enjoyed the change in pace of his new album. Maybe because of his recent marriage to Olivia Jean, this new album has more love songs. But there’s a reflective aspect to this album with some religious undertones and personal reflection on death and it was these songs he drew upon. These songs appear to be heavily influenced by country blues and gospel with Jack’s unique twist.

Sadly, the set ended very quickly. I would have happily listened to a few more songs, leaving me slightly disappointed. But then how many times am I going to see Jack in a small venue again?

Set List

  • Fear of the Dawn
  • What’s the Trick?
  • If I Die Tomorrow
  • Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone
  • Love Is Selfish