Taken from Edmonton Journal (Nov 03, 2018)
Review: Jack White hosts a happening at Rogers Place
Oh, to wield an instrument as masterfully as Jack White, to pierce every undistracted ear in the room with that long wail or sharp lick
by Ryan Garner
Jack White jams with bassist Dominic Davis at Rogers Place on Friday, Nov. 2. Supplied
The word 'happening' existed long before the term 'happening' originated in the late 1950s, when it came to denote an event wherein the interaction between performer and audience elevated it into the realm of performance art.
A Jack White concert is a happening.
And, like most happenings to come before it (and hopefully many more to follow) a Jack White concert is a phone-free show, which ratchets up the crowd's expectation of seeing something memorable enough to exist in gauzy memories, free of photo or video accompaniment.
Mission accomplished, Mr. White.
With their phones sealed in impenetrable pouches, the audience was forced to direct its attention to a tiered semi-circle lined with instruments and the only visible screens in the place, directly behind the stage.
After the opener - Oshawa-based Crown Lands, a psych-rock duo reminiscent of JEFF the Brotherhood-meets-Monster Truck, with guitarist Kevin Comeau's long hair whipping over heavy riffs and drummer Cody Bowles' high-pitched vocals - closed out their set with a sludgy cover of Rush's Working Man, those video screens first captured the crowd's attention with a countdown clock that ticked down past the six-minute mark, then jumped back up above nine minutes, sending waves of panic through the place before yo-yoing down and up, back and forth, until the moment arrived and our man took the stage with the raucous crowd-pleaser Over and Over and Over.
He followed it up with the White Stripes jam Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground before the more recent funk-and-fuzz-inspired Corporation, calling out "Who's with me?" and the crowd responding in kind.
Flanked by guitars, Jack White played Rogers Place on Friday Nov. 2. Supplied
From there the show took on the feel of a recital, every element geared to display the man's immense talent. Oh, to wield an instrument as masterfully as Jack White, to pierce every undistracted ear in the room with that long wail or sharp lick, spanning a multitude of genres from down-home rambler Hotel Yorba to the funky High Ball Stepper.
Standout drummer Carla Azar paced the proceedings, along with bassist Dominic Davis, and some of the night's best moments occurred when the trio came together, White arched over the drum kit, sticks sailing within striking distance.
The number of guitar changes during the show - often occurring mid-song to lend the final bars some extra sizzle or crunchy punctuation - only added to the recital vibe, giving the impression of an artist utilizing every tool available. After a while it became a guessing game, wondering which guitar he'd roam to next, and once he found it which wonderful sound would emerge.
The only time White didn't have a guitar in hand or hanging from his neck was midway through for We're Going to Be Friends, drawing the crowd close as the video screens - which began with a lone spotlight but merged into stylized stenciling, spiraling vortexes, ancient statues, and a determined Doberman pacing along metal barriers - went dark and stayed that way for most of the show's second half, returning here and there to display large snowflakes falling through leafless forests, women's' swirling faces or darkened corridors.
The encore shifted things back to full-on rock show with The Raconteurs' bouncy Steady as She Goes and White's guitar-centric Lazaretto. The only time he roamed from the tight semi-circle to the edge of the stage was during the intro to the night's finale, the seminal Seven Nation Army, bracing the crowd for the torrent to come as the video screens spun around to boost the number of spotlights, bathing our man in the night's brightest light. The screens spun back around as the head-bobbing slowed to display a clapping crowd, their faces slightly melted.
Jack White and mates soak up the Rogers Place applause. Supplied
Introducing his fellow performers - Azar and Davis, along with pianists Quincy McCrary and Neal Evans - the showman closed out the first of nine stops on the Canadian leg of his tour by reminding us "and I've been Jack White."
Free of distraction (or even the temptation of it), the crowd was fully drawn into the action, returning to a time when we focused on the proceedings rather than vainly attempting to preserve them. That was never more evident than midway through the show, when the first lighters appeared, flickering here and there, held aloft like we used to, caught up in the moment when things were happening.