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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Jack White gives a Midland crowd an unforgettable blast of rock-star glory

08/19/2014 8:09 AM

08/19/2014 2:32 PM

You can’t fake charisma; you either have it or you don’t. Jack White has it, in abundance.

It’s not just the new hair style, a ’50s-style greased-up pompadour that honors Elvis Presley, although that helps.

It’s that and more: his arctic-cool, rebel-with-a-cause demeanor; his command of the guitar; his inimitable voice, which can break into a spine-tingling falsetto; his deep respect for the bands and bluesmen who inspired him, from John Lee Hooker and Blind Willie McTell to Led Zeppelin and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

White is a rock star, in an old-school fashion: the guy other guys want to be like (and the ladies want to be with).

Monday night, he filled the Midland theater, from wall to wall, from floor to rafters, and delivered a free-wheeling two-hour show that no doubt will long be remembered by the 3,000 or so in attendance.

It was a showcase of his 15-year career, drawing heavily from his White Stripes catalog but also featuring songs from his solo albums, plus other projects, like the Raconteurs.

The anticipation in the theater was palpable before the show, and White lived up to all the lofty expectations. Dressed in black from head to toe and backed by a five-piece band, he launched into a nonstop set with “Fell in Love With a Girl,” a White Stripes song, arousing a raucous vibe that didn’t wane for a second. The momentum was relentless.

White’s nimble band followed his every move, including his swerves into medleys and snippets of songs. Drummer Daru Jones, situated off to White’s right instead of behind the rest of the band, was as demonstrative as his band leader, often standing to get more leverage as he pummeled his kit. At times, things seemed on the verge of getting unhinged, but that only added to the feeling that nothing was scripted, that anything could happen next.

His mates added a variety of accents to his songs: pedal steel guitar, upright bass, organ, fiddle — sometimes double fiddles — and harmonies, from diminutive fiddler Lillie Mae Rische.

The set was loaded with highlights, and the crowd roared for each one, especially the White Stripes numbers: “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Hotel Yorba,” “We’re Going to Be Friends,” “The Hardest Button to Button” and the explosive rendition of “Seven Nation Army,” which closed the show.

“Steady As She Goes,” a Raconteurs song, was one highlight of an encore that comprised 10 songs and lasted more than 30 minutes. Several songs off his latest solo album, “Lazaretto,” were also standouts, including the molten title track.

White had little to say during the show, mostly humble expressions of gratitude for a crowd that showered him and his band with roars of affection all night.

He let what he loves most do all the talking, delivering a show for the ages and reviving what’s missing from many performers these days: mystery, charisma, mystique.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

SET LIST

Fell in Love With a Girl; Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground; High Ball Stepper; Temporary Ground; Hotel Yorba; Weep Themselves to Sleep; Missing Pieces; Top Yourself; Cannon; Ball and Biscuit/How Many More Times/In the Mood; Blunderbuss; We’re Going to Be Friends; Love Interruption; I’m Slowly Turning Into You. Encore: Icky Thump/ Man on the Silver Mountain; Lazaretto; Astro; Sixteen Saltines; Three Women; Steady As She Goes; Hello Operator; Would You Fight for My Love; The Hardest Button to Button/That Black Bat Licorice/Screwdriver; Seven Nation Army.

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