DETROIT -- Jack White was a happy homecomer as he formally opened his Boarding House Reach world tour on Thursday night, April 19, at Little Caesar’s Arena -- the largest venue he’s ever played in his home town.
Proclaiming that “Detroit -- I am your son!,” the former White Stripe and Third Man Records majordomo put on an explosive, nearly two-hour show that, more than just supporting his third solo album, surveyed his entire recording career and certainly assured the Little Caesar’s crowd, doing without electronic devices by White’s order, that he knew where he was.
The 42-year-old White -- who played a surprise preview show Wednesday night, April 18, at his Third Man Records Cass Corridor store and attended the Detroit Tigers game on Thursday afternoon -- proudly introduced bassist Dominic Davis, the sole holdover from his previous band, as a fellow alumnus of nearby Cass Technical High School. He noted that there were Tigers in the house -- slugger Miguel Cabrera and star-turned-broadcaster Kirk Gibson. He sported a Cass Tech jersey, with a No. 3 on the back, for the encores.
And during the White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba” White brought his mother Teresa Gillis on stage to sing and polka with him during the White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba” -- a genuinely touching moment from an artist not often associated with sentimentality.
The concert also staked a bit of new world order for White. With a mostly fresh band -- including two keyboardists (Quincy McCrary and Neal Evans) who complemented his guitar pyrotechnics with fresh textures and tight, in-the-pocket drummer Carla Azar -- White staked a claim in the arena realm with visual production that was striking without getting over the top. An extensive lighting rig bathed White and company (including the McCrary Sisters vocal troupe on four songs) in a variety of moods. A three-panel video screen displayed on-stage close-ups, graphics, prepared video material and even some humorous band member antics; Leading into 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, meanwhile, traversed the stage throughout the night, often jumping onto the band riser to go toe-to-toe with the other musicians. He played a brief bit of drums during “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” and piano on “Ball and Biscuit.” “Boarding House Reach” was the early focus of the show which opened with “Over and Over and Over” and, after the White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” stormed through renditions of the funky anthem “Corporation” and the quieter “Why Walk a Dog?” “Connected By Love” was saved for the encore, accented by the McCrary’s gospel-flavored harmonies.
Related: See more photos from Jack White shows here.
White touched on earlier solo material such as “Blunderbuss,” “Lazaretto” and “Love Interruption,” and he started the encore with an arrangement of his Beyonce collaboration “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” And he gave his other bands their due as he stomped through the Dead Weather’s “I Cut Like A Buffalo” and a pair of songs from the Raconteurs -- “Steady, As She Goes” and the murder ballad epic “Carolina Drama,” while a generous troll through the White Stripes’ catalog included favorites such as “Cannon,” “Hello Operator,” “We’re Going To Be Friends,” “Ball and Biscuit,” “My Doorbell” and the sports anthem “Seven Nation Army.”
White sent the Little Caesars crowd home with a command to “be positive, and love Detroit.” But on Thursday, the city’s love, and pride, was reserved for its equally proud son.
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