Review: Jack White at the Usher Hall

Kris Krug

Jack White doesn’t allow photography during his show, so this generic image will have to do. Credits to Kris Krug

There’s a reason this article doesn’t have any photos — it’s because Jack White wouldn’t let me take any.

It was a drunken night of crazy antics as Jack White blew into the Scottish capital like an American hurricane, and in a matter of hours, he was gone again – leaving some audience members baffled and others enthralled. Whether he started the show already drunk, no one will know, but he definitely ended it that way. Swigging champagne like there was a grape draught, playing his guitar with said bottle and then tearing down half his set up, I couldn’t tell if I found his music entertaining or if it was just his unpredictable stumbling.

His music was not the clearest, only his greatest hits were completely audible, but that was arguably decades of muscle memory — playing Seven Nation Army every night since 2003 would drive me to the bottle too. Sixteen Saltines and Steady, As She Goes were perfection but the rest of the show was a little rough around the edges. He stumbled around, tearing down the cymbals, screaming into the microphone to the point that the feedback was almost deafening, conducting his band (he never uses a set list, he just reads the room), acting like a total diva, but then the nicest man would come through when he actually addressed the crowd.

He went from crazed drunkard to concerned busker so quickly it could give you whiplash.

When he came out for the encore (which he waited way too long to come out for), he proclaimed that he would play until 11pm and if anyone needed to leave, to get the last train home, then please feel free to leave. Not the Jack White who ran around the stage leaving guitars on the floor before reaching for his bottle of champers again.

Just before the end of the show, he got the support act Demob Happy on stage to jam through a song (or two, it was hard to figure out when one song stopped and another started) and profusely thanked the crowd, and blessed them, their family, their friends, all of Edinburgh and all of Scotland… the only person he forgot to bless was the family cow. He then embarked on a half hour encore (it was a two and a half hour show, getting your money’s worth) and scaled the piano (yes, he scaled it, almost crashed off of it trying to smash his guitar and then stepped off it in a very lacklustre fashion, probably realising he was too smashed himself).

Special mention has to go out to Jack White’s tech, who spent more time on stage than off, untangling him after he’d done his laps of the stage, and tuning his guitar every time he dropped it, fixing his microphone set up when he trashed it, and just generally saving the day when instruments got in Jack’s way.

All in all, it was a very entertaining show, but if you came for the music and not the full Jack White experience, then you might be left disappointed. Just don’t expect to use your phone to take photos of him or take a phone call, because he doesn’t like that either – he makes you lock your phone away before the gig even starts. It’s all Jack White or nothing at all.

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