must make for an awful neighbor. His continual stomping side-to-side across a stage, his severely cranked up guitar playing, and his relentless barrage of non-stop, uninterrupted rock and roll outbursts would be enough to drive any nearby tenant up a wall. But that’s not so when he’s performing before a loyal and adoring audience; the tightly packed-in attendees for White’s Wednesday night onslaught at Orlando’s Hard Rock Live venue were happy to share real estate with the Detroit-based singer- songwriter for a while and they let him know it.
Donning a long-sleeved patterned shirt, slacks, white ankle boots, suspenders and sporting his thatch of bright blue locks atop his head, White wasted no time in making his solo, Orlando-area live debut a truly memorable event. Opening with rocker “Taking Me Back” from Fear of the Dawn
, the earlier of his two spectacular 2022 album releases, White seemed intent and focused on delivering the goods for many who were no doubt witnessing his arresting live performance for the very first time. Playing on the large, sparse stage (save for his arsenal of guitars, a stationary mannequin, a piano he occasionally sat at to play, and a projection screen behind him), White and his three-piece band filled the room with a sonic assault that didn’t let up for two hours.
Known to not stick to a predetermined set list and playing whatever the hell comes to his mind, White did a fantastic job juggling songs from different eras of his career, to include some of the side bands he’s been a part of, which clearly satisfied the very vocal attendees. He unleashed a pair of rockers from his stint with The White Stripes early on; supercharged renditions of that band’s barnburners “Fell in Love With a Girl” and the rockabilly-tinged “Hotel Yorba” drew loud ovations and prompted fierce sing-alongs from the audience. As intense lights flashed and flooded the stage with dramatic flair, White and his band did plenty to steadily increase the level of intensity by seemingly getting stronger as the night progressed.
Photo by David James Swanson
Jack White plays Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Florida on Sept. 21, 2022.
Perfectly illustrating that continual rise in force, the band and the entire performance rose to a completely different level halfway into the set thanks to the groove laden “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” a tune from the catalog of White’s offshoot band The Dead Weather. As artsy, fuzzed out monochromatic images of White and his band members buzzed across the rear projection screen, the group locked into a funk-inspired groove and marvelously showed off White’s personal penchant and admiration for styles and genres outside of those with which he’s normally associated. Continuing to veer down that path, White immediately followed with his hip-hop inspired “Hi-De-Ho,” which features guest raps by former A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip and samples jazz legend Cab Calloway. Despite Q-Tip’s vocal portion being piped in for the performance, nothing was lost in pulling off a dynamic reading of the tune.
Not one for a lot of between-song banter, White did pause to acknowledge the crowd and to thank them for attending. He also took a moment to thank opening act Cat Power and to dedicate a song to her, despite having his memory fail him when doing so. “I want to dedicate this song to her that I wrote a few years ago…but I can’t remember what it’s called” he announced before launching into a flawless version of “Alone in My Home,” a country-inspired ballad from his 2014 solo album Lazaretto
Ending his main set with a pair of White Stripes crowd pleasers, “Ball and Biscuit” and the rarely performed “Little Bird,” it was clear that White had won over this crowd and left them feverishly wanting more. At the customary time when the audience awaits an encore, this keyed-up crowd impressively and loudly chanted the familiar sound pattern that makes up the basis of the best-known White Stripes song of all, “Seven Nation Army.” As expected, White and his bandmates eagerly complied and raced out again for their welcomed encore.
Opening the last act with “Steady, As She Goes,” the debut single from another of his side bands, The Raconteurs (which placed Orlando Calling in 2011
), prompted more enthusiasm from the audience who sang along to every note of the thumping rocker and seemingly lost their minds while relentlessly pumping their fists and jumping up and down in unison. The reaction clearly impressed White who cracked a few uncharacteristic smiles throughout the encore and delivered a heartfelt, gratitude-filled closing statement at the conclusion of the show.
For those who’d never gotten the chance to see Jack White live prior to this phenomenal display, it’s safe to venture that this night left them wanting more chances to do so.
As previously mentioned, the night was kicked off with a short but highly impressive set from Chan Marshall, better known by her stage name, Cat Power. Aided by a three-piece band herself, the singer—who was forced to cancel her show in Tampa this week
—showed off her sultry, haunting vocal style exquisitely despite performing her moody, sparse compositions amid a din of non-stop chatter coming from the audience. Clearly not the optimum setting to experience this exceptional singer and songwriter, Marshall, unfazed, was grateful for the applause and the cheers she received after each selection.
Without the aid of a spotlight on her and clad in a long black dress, Cat Power was instead bathed in violet lights that added to the mystery of her aura. Known for her unique selections and interpretations of a variety of cover songs (as marvelously showcased on her most current release, 2022’s Covers
album), Cat Power unleashed her dizzying version of “New York, New York,” a song more commonly associated as Frank Sinatra’s signature tune, and the country music standard, Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” during her all-too-short set.