@ZackTeibloom Never underestimate my Jack White obsession. Why would you? We ran a contest to see how much I’d end up seeing of The Dead Weather show despite the intriguing Van Morrison conflict. Van was scheduled to start at 3:35. Jack, I mean The Dead Weather, at 3:45. Two stages on the complete opposite side of the festival with a swarming crowd. And it had just started to rain.
Either way, I was wearing White Stripes hunting tartan socks*. I was going to catch some Jack. It was just a matter of how much. My biggest fear was Van running late, but he was off and running by 3:32. Well, off and something. I knew I’d be able to tell after a few songs whether we were in store for a classic set or a nostalgia one. By the time “Brown Eyed Girl” was over, I knew.Van came out in a black top hat and dark sunglasses as the rain fell for the first time all weekend. He sounded … fine. It’s a sliding scale among great aging rock voices. From worst to best that we’ve seen in the last year or so it goes:
- Aretha – Doesn’t show and sounds rough on TV appearances.
- Sly Stone – Can’t finish even one song on the rare occasion he does show
- George Clinton – sounds like Ron Santo in the 11th inning of a west coast road trip.
- Bob Dylan- It takes a lot to laugh, It takes listening to Bob Dylan to cry.
- Art Garfunkel – The only list he’ll ever be slightly ahead of Dylan on. I heard it was painful to hear him first weekend of Yazz Fest.
- Joe Cocker – Part of it is just the way his voice has always been, part of is is grating.
- Van Morrison – In his day, he could sing better than anyone on this list not named Aretha. Now he’s just fine.
- …The rest of the list is James Taylor/Neil Young/etc. up to Al Green who still sounds better than anyone.
Three or four songs in, Van sang “…And the rains came down” to cheers from the crowd during “Brown Eyed Girl.” It was a lovely rendition. And let me make it clear that I love Van Morrison. And not just the hits and Moondance. I wanted Van to come out and inspire me. Seeing zero minutes Dead Weather was a remote possibility if Van came out firing. He didn’t. And I heard from others who stayed, he never hit above 85 on the radar gun.
As that bulleted list intended to show you, Van sounded fine, but he’s not particularly masterful on any instrument, so his voice is what he leans on. If he’s not delivering an A- or better, I’m going to the A show. He took a turn on the piano. He took a turn on the sax. He took a turn on guitar. All sounded fine, but it was heading for a high 7’s, low 8’s and The Dead Weather is a 9.3 on their worst day.
I hiked up my hunting socks, fought my way out of my spot three rows behind the video screen to the right side of Van, found an opening and started running. I felt the looks. No one runs in Jazz Fest, but Jack White was playing live on the other side of this racetrack. I wasn’t going to stop. I’d been texting @shelleyfasulko who was about to run 12 miles in training for a half-marathon.
I figured if she could do that, the least I could do was run all the way across the fest without breaking stride. The absurd amount of crawfish in my system weighed me down, but I pressed on as the rain came down, not slowing until I heard Jack wailing on the drums during “Hang You From The Heavens” at 3:54 p.m.
The first full song I heard was “You Just Can’t Win,” with Jack moving from the drums to lead vocals. It felt like I’d won, as I made my way to three rows from the stage by the right video screen. Jack used the opportunity on the mic to check in on us as the rain came down. “You OK out there?! Of course you are. You put up with anything!”
Alison showed why she’s the sexiest woman in rock as Jack picked up the big mallets for “So Far From Your Weapon.” I wondered why the woman next to me was looking up at the monitor, when the band was so close to us. Then I glanced up and did a double take. Alison looked absolutely stunning, with her rain-dampened hair sticking to her face, as she flashed those naughty eyes at us.
Jack took over for “Cut Like a Buffalo” as Alison, Jack and Little Jack huddled together by the drum kit. Dean took his turn to lead on a new song from Sea of Cowards as Alison crouched in her “fuck me” boots. As the rest of the band is still finishing one song, Jack is pounding the drum part for the next song, fueling the fire. He drove them hard on new single “Die by the Drop,” before making a plug for record stores.
This is “on the new record in stores in a couple of weeks … if they still have those. ‘Hussle and Cuss’ and it stars mr. Jack Lawrence on the bass. Little Jack’s goatee is getting thicker every day. They brought the thunder next on the raucous “New Pony” with Alison straddling two amps and kneeling seductively on them.
“Treat Me Like Your Mother” had Jack’s vocals sounding intentionally washed out on “You blink when you breathe and you breathe when you lie.” Then came the masterpiece. It’s hard for me to see how incredible The Dead Weather are for “Will There Be Enough Water” and not wish the whole show was like that. I guess I’ll just learn to take what I can get. This was a special performance. The Coachella solo was quite wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but ACL and Coachella were light years better. I beg you to watch this.
I was afraid no one would be able to capture when Jack turned into the devil, but somehow video footage exists. Watch carefully. At 1:23 Jack White leaps out of frame and his body is inhibited by the devil himself. His guitar glows like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. It rains harder. Alison dances like she’s possessed. Jack’s head moves involuntarily from 3:39 to 4:05. It starts really pouring. I got chills. Some of his best soloing didn’t even occur until this video ends, but you can’t bottle the devil. It was the only truly transcendent moment of the festival and I’m thrilled I caught it. There was enough water. There was just enough Jack.
As for the contest, I saw over 45 minutes of The Dead Weather and I did die by the drop! Again, never underestimate my Jack White obsession. The other guesses were anywhere from 19 to 25 minutes but they were all light. The winner is @ddmauch with a guess of: “33:00 of The Dead Weather, “Die by the Drop” is second to last in the set which obv closes with “Will there be enough water?”! He even gave bonus info! Well done, sir.
*I did leave The Dead Weather shirt at home. Didn’t wanna be “That guy,” but I was holding the White Stripes hunting sock tartan above my head and made the “too-much-rock-for-one-hand” sign as The Dead Weather took their bow. I’m pretty sure Jack looked right at me and smiled. Don’t try to tell me otherwise.
**Until I unveil my new rating system next week, I thought you’d like to know The White Stripes are a 9.8, The Raconteurs a 9.7 and The Dead Weather a 9.6.