Concert Review: Jack White @ HMV Forum, London, England (with setlist)

On Monday, Jack White dropped his solo album (GASP!) Blunderbuss, not collaborating with someone for the first time, well, ever. PeteHatesMusic was in the crowd at the HMV Forum in London, as Jack White decided to play on the night of his Blunderbuss release in the UK (it’s out on Tuesday in North America). This was also Jack White’s first solo show in the UK.

If you haven’t heard Blunderbuss yet, a) get it and b) it’s a lot slower and more piano-based compared to other things Jack has done – and this isn’t a bad thing. He’s had the difficult decision of whether to deviate slightly musically, or keep one foot in the past with rockin’ White Stripes songs. Well, he’s sort of done both on Blunderbuss. Enough blubbering about Blunderbuss, let’s talk about the show!

So the burning question everyone wants to know – did Jack White wear only red, white, or black, as per his White Stripes days, or did he mix it up radically, perhaps with some frilly dress? Actually, no one really gives a fuck, but I’ll tell you anyway – I’m colour blind yes, he actually just wore black.

Jack White has said that his upcoming tour will consist of either an all-male backing band or an all-female backing band on any given night, and that he’ll decide the morning of the show. Oh, Jack White – how we love your kookiness. Last night, the crowd was treated to…DRUM ROLL PLEASE….the 6 girl backing band, which included a standing double bass as well as a fiddle.

The person behind me asked if Jack White was going to play White Stripes songs (did they buy tickets just to hear Blunderbuss?!). Well, they found out on note number 1, as the band launched into Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, off of White Blood Cells. The song took on a radical new sound, as Jack gave way to a backing female vocalist for portions of the song that are typically sung by him. With more than just a guitar and drums on the White Stripes songs, I was looking forward to hearing how ALL the White Stripes songs would sound.

The band then launched into 3 songs from Blunderbuss: Freedom at 21, Missing Pieces, and first single Love Interruption. I first saw the White Stripes 10 years ago and the thing that stuck in my mind is how Jack White just totally owned the room with his amazing guitar solos. The same was true for the 3 Blunderbuss songs, with Jack just ripping out and amplifying the songs with loud, fast, yet fitting guitar solos – much more powerful than the stuff he plays on his albums.

Standing in front of a simple background with “III” on it, the band then played a song by The Raconteurs, called Top Yourself. The crowd didn’t seem to know it, and it killed the momentum that was gained by Love Interruption.

Jack stole back the crowd, noting he wanted to play an old country song, and then followed up by playing Hotel Yorba. The 7-piece band completely transformed the song into something much more amazing than the simple White Stripes song, especially the part of the fiddle. Maybe Jack should’ve given up the 2-piece band gimmick years ago.

Another 2 songs from Blunderbuss followed – the excellent Hypocritical Kiss, and then Weep Themselves to Sleep, which sort of sounds like it belongs in a musical, the way the piano and guitar interact.

The crowd reacted very positively to the old White Stripes song, I’m Slowly Turning into You. The next song was a pleasant surprise, as it was a song from the album Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi (which made the PeteHatesMusic albums of 2011). The song featured Jack White, and is Two Against One (which recently got its own music video).

A clap along broke out as Jack slowly began playing We’re Going to Be Friends. Once again though, the setlist suffered from some poor ordering, as the not-so-great Blunderbuss song, On and On and On, followed. Unfortunately, the song is not any better live than it is on the album.

The first song by Jack’s other other band, The Dead Weather, was played next, in the form of Blue Blood Blues. This was followed by the last song of the 55-minute regular set, the well-received Ball and Biscuit, off of Elephant.

The band came out for a 6-song, 35-minute encore, leading off with the 2nd single from Blunderbuss, the rockin’ Sixteen Saltines. Jack then headed for the piano to play his final song from Blunderbuss, which was Take Me with You When You Go. Like On and On and On, the song reminds me of a song from a musical, maybe because it’s sort of gimmicky almost, with it’s piano and guitar riffs and joint notes.

The White Stripes song, My Doorbell, got the crowd going again, followed by a rousing version of Carolina Drama by The Raconteurs. No Jack White set would be complete without FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL! Seven Nation Army, and so the second last song was that classic song. Jack implored the crowd to sing and clap along at the end of the song, as the song is now a popular cheer in football grounds across the UK.

The final song was Goodnight Irene, which is a ‘Lead Belly’ cover, that has been covered by numerous artists over time. Jack also wanted the crowd to sing along, but it seemed like only a small portion of the crowd actually knew the song.

The show was great. Jack White can play a mean guitar, and the majority of the Blunderbuss songs were much better live than on the album. The older songs from Jack’s catalogue were improved in several cases with the addition of a backing band and female vocalist (no offense, Meg). The only drawback would be that the crowd doesn’t know Blunderbuss yet, so those songs weren’t well received, so the setlist suffered from the crowd going crazy to the crowd being bored. My right ear is still ringing as I write this, so I am suing Jack White.

The coveted opening slot went to the Smoke Fairies, which is a 5 piece band with 2 girls and 3 guys. A lot of the songs feature vocal play between the 2 females, with 1 singing higher and the other (obviously) lower. They also switched lead vocals for some of the songs. The band definitely had its moments, with some building, atmospheric songs, and layered harmonies and vocals. Unfortunately, the songs weren’t overly catchy, and sometimes seemed like they could maximize their strengths better if they styled their songs a little differently. That being said, I’d be interested in listening to a few of their singles to get a better feel for them.

So you’re wondering where are all the pictures from the show? Well, a pre-show announcement told us that no cameras or cell phone pictures are allowed to be taken, or you will get kicked out. People tried anyway, and there was a lot of scenes with security lecturing people, but apparently no punishment. So blame Jack White, or maybe the HMV Forum. Blame anyone but yourself – that’s the key to happiness.

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PHM Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Setlist for Jack White @ HMV Forum, London, England – April 23, 2012
(all songs from Jack White’s solo album, Blunderbuss, unless noted otherwise – which is actually the majority of songs)

1 – Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (by The White Stripes)
2 – Freedom at 21
3 – Missing Pieces
4 – Love Interruption
5 – Top Yourself (by the Raconteurs)
6 – Hotel Yorba (by The White Stripes)
7 – Hypocritical Kiss
8 – Weep Themselves to Sleep
9 – Slowly Turning Into You (by The White Stripes)
10 – Two against One (by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, featuring Jack White)
11 – We’re Going to Be Friends (by The White Stripes)
12 – On and On and On
13 – Blue Blood Blues (by the Dead Weather)
14 – Ball and Biscuit (by The White Stripes)


15 – Sixteen Saltines
16 – Take Me with You When You Go
17 – My Doorbell (by The White Stripes)
18 – Carolina Drama (by The Raconteurs)
19 – Seven Nation Army (by The White Stripes)
20 – Goodnight Irene (Huddie ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter cover)

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