Jack White – Madison Square Garden (New York, NY), 1/30/15

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Whoever said that rock and roll was dead obviously didn’t tell Jack White. I was lucky enough to be at his sold out show at Madison Square Garden on Friday night and it was one of the purest manifestations of rock that I’ve ever witnessed.

I’ve been a fan of Jack White ever since The White Stripes came on the scene back in the late 90s. The band had a unique sound that just spoke to me and they quickly became one of my favorite bands. When the band officially called it quits in 2011, I was disappointed, but I knew that wasn’t the last that I’d heard of Jack White and I looked forward to his next musical endeavor. I enjoyed his collaborations with The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, but I didn’t connect with it the same way that I had with The White Stripes. I thought perhaps The White Stripes had captured some sort of lightening in a bottle that would be unable to be replicated. But then White released his solo work and I was blown away once again. I must have had Blunderbuss on constant rotation for well over a month, to the annoyance of my friends and co-workers. It was just so good that I couldn’t not listen to it.

I’ve wanted to experience Jack White’s music in person for some time, but he’s not an easy guy to see. He doesn’t do a lot of traditional tours, but instead randomly pops up at festivals or at smaller venues. Because his schedule is somewhat unpredictable, his concerts also tend to sell out very quickly; if you hear that Jack White is coming to town, you grab a ticket since who knows when you’ll have another chance. I was determined to see him sooner rather than later, so when the MSG concert was announced I knew that was my best chance. Thanks to a presale I was successful and I began counting down the days until the show. I tried to manage my expectations; I didn’t want to set my hopes too high so that White would be unable to meet impossible standards. It wasn’t easy.

Thankfully, Jack White did not disappoint; his concert at Madison Square Garden was an unadulterated rocking affair that almost blew your face off. It was loud, it was joyful and it dirty – everything that a great rock show should be. White didn’t waste a lot of time with idle chitchat; he was too busy blowing the roof off the place. To see Jack White lost in his music is to see musical brilliance in action.

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His set list spanned his musical career, with songs from his two solo albums intermixed with songs from his days with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. His music has always been an amalgam of different genres that make it hard to fully quantify White’s music and all of his musical influences were on full display. Backed by a fantastic band that included one hell of a fiddle player (Lillie Mae Rische), White took the audience on a musical odyssey that was almost exhausting to witness. It was so intense and raw and almost primal.

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One of the big mysteries for me going into the show was if there would be any surprise guests. White has always been open to collaborations with other artists and had recently done a show in his hometown of Nashville where he brought out Loretta Lynn. New York is a city that has an abundance of musicians and I was hopefully that he’d bring someone cool out on stage. His show certainly didn’t need any assistance, but part of the fun of going to concerts is the opportunity to hear unique covers or unexpected collaborations. Halfway through the show, I was so into what Jack White and company were doing up on stage that I had forgotten about any possibility of a mystery guest. I didn’t think this could get any better.

And then, Q-Tip came out on stage.

Of all the possibilities, I certainly hadn’t expected White to bring out a classic hip-hop artist. I don’t know why that combination never occurred to me; White is open to all different genres of music and there is a long, if checkered, history of rock and hip-hop partnerships. Q-Tip is a legendary figure in the hip-hop world and it was an inspired choice. The loud crowd somehow got louder as the duo performed White’s “That Black Bat Licorice” before segueing into A Tribe Called Quest’s classic tune “Excursions.” It was a highlight in a show that was one long highlight reel.

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Run the Jewel opened the show and while I had heard their name I hadn’t actually heard any of their music before the show. So I was a little surprised that they were a hip hop duo. For some reason, I thought that they were an indie band, and this discovery kind of threw me off for their entire performance. I’ll have to give them another listen when I know what exactly I’m signing myself up for; I thought that they had an interesting sound, but I was so perplexed by what was happening that I don’t think I gave them a fair shake. They had a surprise guest as well, as Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine came out for “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck).”

Honestly, the stars couldn’t have aligned for me to have a better concert experience. I was even able to sit with my friends Mike and Stephen, which was unexpected. We had purchased our tickets separately, but wound up only one section away from each other and despite the sold out crowd, they had an empty seat next to them. Even though we all have different musical tastes and personalities, we were all in agreement that it was one of the best shows that we’ve seen in a long time. Jack White put on a spectacular performance that I won’t forget any time soon. An amazing night with an amazing musician. Another one crossed off the bucket list.

For a limited time, you can stream the audio of the concert over at Pandora.

Set list

  • Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes song)
  • High Ball Stepper
  • Lazaretto
  • Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes song)
  • Temporary Ground
  • Cannon (The White Stripes song)
  • Broken Boy Soldier (The Raconteurs song) (with “Cannon” reprise)
  • Love Interruption
  • We’re Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes song)
  • Three Women
  • Top Yourself (The Raconteurs song) (“Black Math” Intro)
  • Ball and Biscuit (The White Stripes song)
  • That Black Bat Licorice (With Q-Tip)
  • Excursions (A Tribe Called Quest cover) (With Q-Tip)
  • Sixteen Saltines
  • Astro (The White Stripes song)
  • Steady, As She Goes (The Raconteurs song)
  • Would You Fight for My Love?
  • Just One Drink
  • Blunderbuss
  • Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes song)
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