OMAHA -- As “Seven Nation Army” came roaring to a close, Jack White put down the hollow-body electric guitar and slide that he’d used to conjure up the now-famous driving riff of The White Stripes’ anthem and picked up an acoustic.
Stepping to the microphone, White began singing, of all things, “Goodnight Irene,’ eventually leading the exuberant sold-out Music Hall crowd in a singalong, then ending what was a brilliant 90 minute concert.
While unusual, that conclusion was fitting in many ways. White is a post modern roots music master, taking vintage and not-so-vintage sounds and molding them into something his own.
So a traditional song fits perfectly with his compositions that draw on the blues, often as filtered through Led Zeppelin, country (covering "You Know That I Know," White quipped “I wrote this song with Hank Williams. Yes I said that”) and classic rock ‘n’ roll.
The latter made its first appearance on “Trash Tongue Talker,” the first song on which White played piano, going back to back with the keyboardist from his terrific band, Los Buzzardos. That’s his band made up of all guys. His all-female group, The Peacocks, joined White at a 30-minute surprise afternoon set at an Old Market store.
That song is from “Blunderbuss,” White’s recent solo album that provided eight of Monday’s 21 songs. But he also drew from the White Stripes catalog for nine songs, did one Dead Weather tune and a pair of Raconteurs songs including “Steady, As She Goes,”during the encore that also featured a blistering version of "Sixteen Salteens," the hardest rocker from "Blunderbuss.".
Played by six musicians and more fully arranged, the White Stripes songs sounded far different than they did when Jack and Meg played them. I’m sure they and every other song sounded different than they have each time White and Los Buzzardos have played them.
White, it was clear just from watching, challenges the band, making them follow the leader to dramatic, dynamic effect -- that’s part of what makes the old sound so fresh in his hands.
It’s also what allows White to breathe new life into hoariest of rock cliches -- the guitar hero/ Whether making his Telecaster squeal, working the slide or finger picking the acoustic, White showed his guitar mastery Monday -- even switching from dark driving chords to the classic “Pipeline” surf lead line within the same song.
As was the case with The White Stripes, White has a visual theme to go with the audio. This time around, the color is pale blue, the primary motif is III, the bars that also happen to be the logo of his Third Man Records and the band were sharped dressed men, performing in suits or, in White’s case, a vest over a white shirt and tie.
As has been the case each of the times I’ve seen him, White had little to say during the show. But he did come up with this doozy:
“This is my first trip to Nebraska. This is the second show I’ve played in Nebraska. That’s a little riddle for you.”
I have no clue as to the riddle’s solution. But it is worth nothing that the White Stripes had a Pershing Center show scheduled in 2007. But the duo didn’t make it to Lincoln before scrapping its final tour.
That delayed his first Nebraska show by five years. It was worth the wait. Monday’s show was everything that a rock show should be. White is simply the best.