Last night: The Dead Weather at the Ogden Theatre
The Dead Weather, Tyvek
August 17, 2009
Better Than: Porn
What's your Jack White flavor? Are you a vanilla fan, a consumer of the pale white God of garage rock, or would you prefer vintage chocolate Jack, shy and drinking moonshine? Or perhaps you're interested in our newest edition, Jack the British sex icon?
White, like his hero Dylan, is whatever you want, completely open in his own totally ambiguous way. He'll tell you his soul is bared in the music, every time, and the soul is plainly there, but that doesn't mean you can actually learn anything about him by listening. He said some emotional shit about "I Cut Like a Buffalo," how honest, how personal that song is, but who the fuck knows what it's like to cut like a buffalo. I'm sure he's sincere, but it's the sort of sincerity that feels like it could apply to any honest soul. He's Not There any more than Dylan is.
Anyway, he's out there now as the drummer for the Dead Weather, and this carefully crafted persona wears a black thermal long-sleeve and black pants with a big silver belt buckle. This Jack White plays drums like it's a career, grooving, confident, shoulders thrown back, the occasional torso shake. He looks like Robert Smith if Smith were too cool to be depressed.
The Dead Weather also features Jack Lawrence, or the dorky looking guy from the Raconteurs, who still looks dorky even though he's wearing a leather jacket and playing a big white ballsy bass with gold knobs. On guitar and keys is Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age, and he is the only member of the Dead Weather who seems to totally belong to the band.
Now seems like a good time to explain what exactly this band is: The Dead Weather is black and white and fog machines. They have blue and white strobes and just a tease of gold light. They are the biggest of Jack White's bands, by which I mean they make the most noise, all those matching white guitars on maximum distortion and White hitting the drums like he wants their lunch money.
The whole thing is thick with sexual tension, enough to dry your mouth. Musically, they're something like Transylvania's arena rock band, and that's not necessarily a good thing. For as awesome as the vocal line is in the single "Treat Me Like Your Mother," I can't shake the feeling that I've heard this before on Today's Best NEW alternative RAWK!
That's where Fertita comes back. He'd fit into The Killers or whatever, wearing a striped shirt and way too much muscle for a proper indie rock band. He plays a mean guitar riff, don't get me wrong, I don't mean to diss the guy. It's just that, while he's not the most compelling member of the Dead Weather, when I look at him he seems to fit the best. Back to the lineup, where we've come to the first member of Jack White band to successfully haul some spotlight off the man and his considerable stage presence.
Enter Alison Mosshart, the Florida-raised singer of the London lo-fi band The Kills. Alison is sexy as shit - she's got a slinky body and an incredible jawline. And she doesn't hurt the appeal by stalking the stage like a black widow in heat, throwing her jet-black mane and tugging at her sweat soaked neckline and lightly clutching at her crotch. She jerks her hips, sometimes to the beat and sometimes not. She grabs the mike stand for support and lays arched over a monitor. But she's not just for the horny boys out there. The woman has real talent as a front woman, a voice that does husky as well as honey, dangerous and disarming.
Towards the end of the main set, Jack White walks out from behind his kit and grabs a guitar. Oh yeah. A couple hundred screaming woman fall all over his every little note. I'd be in a better position to laugh at them if it weren't for my own open-mouthed awe when he rips out a couple of solos. I'd almost managed to forget, amidst all this personality interpretation crap, that this guy is one of the best guitarists of his generation.
The Dead Weather sold out the Ogden, a venue that starts to feel a whole lot like a death trap when it gets this packed. I was up close among the true believers, and they were clearly having a wet dream of an evening. But when I glanced up at the balcony, I saw a lot of nonplussed faces. Maybe these guys aren't quite as awesome at high angles or maybe getting bored is just what those people get for sitting down at a rock and roll show.
The Dead Weather have their moments of dirty magic (I could listen to Fertita rip distorted holes through melodies all day long), but no matter how much I like the little things, the whole deal comes across a little bit too much like an act.
Oh, and Tyvek played some music as well. The band's from Detroit, and it's sort of like the Stooges without the Power, which, as music fans out there know, just leaves the Raw.
Personal Bias: I want to just love this band. I really do. I love the idea Jack White exploring his badass side. Still, I, um, don't love this band.
Random Detail: You know how White was so aggressive about not being the front man of the Raconteurs? He's not really fighting it here, openly sharing the lead with Mosshart. It makes the whole thing easier to take seriously.
By The Way: Spot that T-shirt! I saw The Cramps, Ani Difranco, the Ramones, Soundgarden, Merge Records, a vintage Nuggets and way to many of the Dead Weather.