After four weeks of small venue warm-ups and TV appearances, Jack White got his Boarding House Reach world tour started in earnest Thursday night (April 19) with a raucous and hometown-centric concert at Little Caesars Arena in his native Detroit.
You could even call it a mother of a show as White — who spent part of Thursday afternoon at the Detroit Tigers’ home game nearby — brought mom Teresa Gillis on stage to sing backing vocals and polka with him during the White Stripes‘ “Hotel Yorba.”
Weighing in at just shy of two hours, the concert debuted White’s big-venue stage, a sleek an open set with his four-piece band (and, on four songs, the McCrary Sisters vocal group) positioned on an illuminated riser behind him. An extensive lighting display bathed White and company in a variety of moods, while a three-panel video screen displayed on-stage close-ups, graphics, some prepared video material and even some humorous band member antics; Leading up to the show, White was pictured going in and out of a studio, adjusting a clock counting down to the start of the show.
The real White, sporting a polka-dot shirt — and, for the encore, a jersey from his alma mater Cass Technical High School — was his usual on stage dervish, traversing the entire area and often leaping onto the riser to go toe-to-toe with the other musicians. He also played a brief bit of drums during “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” and on “Ball and Biscuit,” piano, with keyboardists Quincy McCrary and Neal Evans adding jazzy touches.
The concert was more White career survey than Boarding House Reach promotion, although White and the band did deliver five tracks from his chart-topping third solo album — starting the show with “Over and Over and Over” and, after the White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” renditions of the funky anthem “Corporation” and the quieter “Why Walk a Dog?” “Connected By Love” during the encore was show highlight, accented by the McCrary’s gospel-flavored harmonies.
Fans of White’s other incarnations were well-served disappointed as he touched on the Dead Weather (a stomping “I Cut Like A Buffalo”) and the Raconteurs (“Steady, As She Goes” and the murder ballad epic “Carolina Drama,” also with the McCrarys). White also offered an arrangement of his Beyonce collaboration “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” and there was an abundance of White Stripes material, including “Cannon,” “Hello Operator,” “We’re Going To Be Friends,” “Ball and Biscuit,” “My Doorbell” and “Seven Nation Army,” which sent the crowd home chanting its sports venue-shaking hook.
White, who played a warm-up set on Wednesday night at his Third Man Records Cass Corridor store just a few blocks from the arena, certainly knew he was at home. “Detroit,” he bellowed at one point, “I am your son!,” later announcing that Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and star-turned-broadcaster Kirk Gibson were in the house. As he and the band took their final bows, meanwhile, White left fans with the message, “Be positive, and love Detroit!” On Thursday, however, that section of Detroit’s love was all for that particular native son.
White’s tour continues Friday in Milwaukee, with dates in North America through June 23 and a European run beginning three days later with in London before White returns to the U.S. on Aug. 5 at Lollapalooza in Chicago. See photos from Thursday’s Detroit show here.