“There are legit perogies here,” Jack White said, in awe and appreciation, while standing on stage at Greenpoint’s Warsaw venue in Brooklyn on Friday night (March 23). The show was a special one for White, who released his third solo album Boarding House Reach the same day and celebrated by playing over two hours of career-spanning material from The White Stripes, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs.
But for an album with such mixed reviews, most citing White’s jarring turn towards experimental, the veteran rocker appeared happier and more personable than ever — which explains why he mentioned the perogies at least two more times. “Do you know how lucky you are to have this place?!”
Earlier in the night, White came bounding on stage, his hair long again, and triggered a sonic explosion with one simple head-bang. Surrounded by a four-person band, at least 10 different pedals and three mics, White was right at home. Of the first 10 songs, six were off the new album. He opened the show with “Over and Over and Over,” one of the more accessible tracks on Boarding House Reach, and followed with “Corporation,” “Why Walk a Dog?,” “Respect Commander” and “Connected By Love,” which offered the show’s first acoustic moment and elevated the elementary lyrics to new teary-eyed heights.
Boarding House Reach makes more sense live, as if the songs were too confined on the album and have been waiting for this moment to finally breathe. “Corporation” allowed White to connect with the the crowd by repeatedly asking, “Who’s with me?” (t-shirts emblazoned with the same question were being sold), while “Get In The Mind Shaft” (which made its live debut) came across as a Daft Punk-inspired jam session.
White’s newfound synth-friendly sonic outlook ushered old songs into his present, like “Lazaretto” off his sophomore album of the same name and “Missing PIeces” off his solo debut Blunderbuss. And though White’s experimental evolution is evident, that’s not to say he’s entirely abandoned his old ways. (Posters lined the venue that read “Phone use area at side bar.”)
Still, what made this performance so special is how it strayed from a typical Jack White show. He was so busy enjoying himself that he even let a few smiles slip while sharing personal anecdotes about growing up in a Polish neighborhood in Detroit, and later enthusiastically popped the cork of a prosecco bottle mid-set and took a swig. White was cutting loose. He wasn’t trying to uphold any persona or maintain mystique. He was — as far as we know — being himself.
Throughout the set (that creeped past midnight), White’s new material fell into place with favorites from his three previous projects — including “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” “We’re Going To Be Friends” and “Carolina Drama” — proving there’s an arch that has otherwise been missed or ignored so far in relation to the context of his new album. When woven together in a well-crafted setlist, it became clear that Boarding House Reach isn’t a pivot, but a bold continuation that — this time around — highlights White as a musician and producer first, vocalist and lyricist second.
Before retreating backstage after ending the 30-minute encore with The White Stripes’ “Ball and Biscuit” (and jumping in line with his backing band, arms around one another), White cut through the thunderous chants to say, “I hope you feel good now” — but most important of all is that White himself did.