With or without cellphones in the room, Jack White commands attention like few other rock stars of his generation, whether he’s leading his own band or is a sidekick in another. He can’t help it. On stage the guy radiates charisma and emanates a personality that can’t be ignored.
Tuesday night, White performed at the Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs. The show was the fifth in his Boarding House Reach Tour, and at every stop, White is requiring fans to lock away their smartphones and devote all their attention on the live-music experience.
It was hard to tell whether the ploy made any difference. For nearly 100 minutes, White rendered the usual results: He and his four-piece band enthralled a crowd of about 6,000 with nearly two dozen songs drawn from his solo and band catalogs. Throughout the set, he displayed the traits and talents that make him one of the music world’s most electrifying live performers.
White is touring on his latest solo album, “Boarding House Reach,” a fearless, mad-dash music odyssey that plunges with abandon into an array of genres and styles, from gospel, punk and funk to hip-hop and the blues. He opened with “Over and Over and Over,” one of the album’s many highlights, a rollicking, fuzz-lathered rock-blues riff-party with Zappa-ish background vocals.
It aptly lit the fuse and set the stage for what followed: a set built to showcase White’s inflammatory ways with a guitar and the impressive might of his band (two keyboards, bass and drums).
This was not a set list for the casual fan. He delivered a few of his best-known White Stripes songs, the jaunty “Hotel Yorba” being the earliest of those and the first to arouse a rowdy singalong. And he ended the initial set with “Seven Nation Army,” which aroused a mighty ovation barely three notes into its opening riff.
The rest of the night he indulged in tracks such as “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” a Dead Weather song; a reworking of “Hear My Train a Comin’,” a Jimi Hendrix tune; and White Stripes nuggets such as “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told),” a keyboard-fueled version of “We’re Going to Be Friends,” and an acoustic-ish version of “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known.”
In the hands of White and this brawny, air-tight band, these songs took on new weights, textures and densities without losing their forms.
For much of the show, the stage was bathed in blue light that was lacerated at times by white spotlights. During a few songs, the steps that led to the band platform flashed bright white lights. White spent most of the night standing behind the trio of microphones through which he dispensed various vocal effects, mingling with his band or indulging in rock-star poses as he wrung thunder and lightning from his guitars.
After the smoke had settled from the blitzkrieg that was “Seven Nation Army,” the house lights went on and the P.A. started playing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” But only 80 minutes had passed, and few in the place were convinced the show was really over.
So after a few minutes of persuasive cheers and applause, White and company returned for a three-song encore that included his foray into rap, “Ice Station Zebra,” and then another Stripes’ deep cut, the thick, swampy “I’m Slowly Turning Into You,” the last train into Led Zep-ville.
After that, the big crowd headed toward the gates to rendezvous with their stowed-away smartphones because there was plenty to text home about.