Review: White tours musical history at Blaisdell

Apr. 16, 2015 | 13 Comments


Jack White looked like he could use a break. Throughout his Wednesday night show in Honolulu, though he occasionally cracked a smile and appeared completely absorbed in his music and bandleading, he also seemed to have a hellhound on his trail — some anxious thought pushing him to put his Honolulu show together in an antic, unpredictable, partially improvised fashion.

His two-hour concert was a tour through his musical history, with songs reaching back to the work with Meg White in the White Stripes — “Seven Nation Army” was the last song of the encore — and up to “Lazaretto,” the title track from his new album, released last year.

Jack Purple. #jackwhitehonolulu #thirdmanrecords #jackwhite #freeyermind #treehousehawaii

Near the beginning of the show, he stopped the music and said, emphatically and somewhat jokingly, “This is a true story … electromagnetism is involved. …

“I bring the levels up, and then I let them down,” he said. “True story.”

It turned out to be an honest promise.

The music could sound like a frantic patchwork, shifting from a brutal beat to a guitar breakdown to a country-inflected violin bridge — and that’s just in “Lazaretto.” But that’s true to the ethic he’s established since way back. Think 2007’s “Icky Thump,” with its squealing blitzes of keyboard and guitar.

It’s about ideas, and forward motion, and heritage — and messing with your head.

With his five-piece band — drummer to the left, bass player on both electric and stand-up next, lap-steel guitar behind him, keyboard and a violinist (sometimes joined by another player) to the right — he moved around between juiced-up versions of his early punk blues, Nashville-inflected songs derived from traditional country music and the layered, wild-yet-sophisticated music of his current incarnation.

Not bad Jack, not bad. #jackwhite #honolulu #hawaii #blaisdell #sevennationarmy

WHITE WORE a suit Wednesday, just as he did as a headliner last weekend at Coachella, and had his hair slicked up into a cocky, geometrically-shaped pompadour. As with all shows on his current tour, the stage was bathed in blue light. But the shape of the music and the order of the songs had a spontaneous feel, with White moving in close to one band member after another, signaling he was about to head out somewhere, cuing them to follow along.

White didn’t allow photographers at the show, and I wondered if that would be because he’d become bloated on tour, like an overindulgent Elvis. Thankfully, White wasn’t — but his music occasionally was. Overindulgent, that is.

At times, as one of several interjected, jagged interludes stalled out momentum during a song, I couldn’t help but wish for the disciplined, relative sparseness of White’s Stripes days.

At the end of his two-hour concert, he said, “This is the last electric punk show I’ll be playing in a while.” He’s about to take “a long break” from performing live, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, but not before holding five acoustic-instrument shows in the five states where he hasn’t yet played.

Jack x 2

I’ll bet his decades-long quest to bowl us over with the gale force of his inventiveness, perfectionism and finely honed nostalgia has been all-engrossing. I’ll also bet that it won’t be long before he’s back with another left-field plan of action.

Maybe he’ll turn more toward acoustic and country music, forms that have influenced him all along, as has urban blues.

DURING THE ENCORE, the rocker surprised the audience with a Hawaii guest who fits right in to that broad spectrum of music.

“We’ve been staying out on the North Shore,” White said, grinning impishly. “There’s a man here let us sleep on his couch — Jack Johnson. Let’s bring him on out here!”

What a great show! Here's #JackWhite and @JackJohnson playing #ICanTellThatWeAreGonnaBeFriends. Jack (White) played for almost two hours and I must say that I'm very satisfied with the quality of his show. Great band, great stage presence and once again, what a great show! Stoked! #AlohaJackWhite

The two played a whimsical and somewhat halting version of “We’re Going to be Friends,” a White Stripes song that was used in “Napoleon Dynamite,” and covered by Johnson on his “Sing-A’Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George.” It was a charming and unexpected bit, changing up his hit-laden, seven-song encore.

White has been touring since he released “Lazaretto,” his second solo album. Despite reports that Coachella was his last official show on tour, that honor actually belongs to Hawaii. He may need a break — but give him credit for putting the islands on his list, and bringing us along on his quest to keep rock “alive in this world,” as he’d put it.

“It only took me 20 years to get to Hawaii,” White said, almost shyly, during that last song. “I just want to say, thank you.”
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

  • Vanessa Sheldon

    I think part of the problem at the onset was that someone messed up sound check. The music was inaudible and painfully loud. It was fixed a few songs in and sounded much better. I love Jack White.

  • HNL

    This is a horrible article. Did you not hear his guy politely ask not to take photos so that we could be present. That’s far from not allowing photos?

    • Honolulu Pulse

      White’s management and the concert promoters did not allow working media photographers into the arena to cover the show.

      • HNL

        That’s totally differnt than not allowing photographs. The man is serious about his work, he looked like he was having a good time to me. Maybe you’ve never seen him or listened to his music before. He’s a genius.

      • laughsdarkly

        Well that’s his decision isn’t it?

    • Shawna Mealey

      Good point! Also, Jack never has a set list, so of course it’s random! That’s the beauty of his shows.

    • laughsdarkly


  • ElizabethKieszkowski

    A note on images: White’s publicists promised that his photographer would share pics, but those weren’t available last night. Pretty cool to be able to share Instagram shots, including one from @jackjohnson himself!

  • laughsdarkly


    Agreed. This article is a very poor reflection of the enthralling and
    wonderfully tempestuous rock show that I saw last night. It’s almost as
    if the reviewer relied on derisive jabs at the artist and nature of the
    performance because she needed fodder to write about a musical experience she
    did not understand.

    “White didn’t allow photographers at the show, and I wondered if that
    would be because he’d become bloated on tour, like an overindulgent Elvis.
    Thankfully, White wasn’t — but his music occasionally was. Overindulgent, that

    -Really? It was very plain to anyone who attended the concert that the
    no-pictures policy was meant to enhance enjoyment of the show for everyone
    present; a sentiment I very much appreciated. The reviewer did not.

    “Jack White looked like he could use a break.” – Absolutely. How trying it
    must be to orchestrate, as well as improvise, an entire musical
    experience. From the careful setup and calibrating of instruments prior
    to the show (and throughout, for that matter), to the concert’s end, you could
    visibly see the artist spill every bit of his musical passion, fervor, and energy, which the crowd wholly appreciated. The reviewer, presumably, did not.

    I’m sad that she was unable to do so. But I’m happy that she seemed to have been at a different concert entirely than the one hundreds of others enjoyed last night. It was a hell of a show – one that we are not likely to be privileged to see again for a long time.

  • Scott Audunson

    I thought the show was epic and something really special. .. it blew my mind .. it was a real treat to have jack white out here and thank him for the effort to reach too our secluded state…

  • Scott Audunson

    Jack white is one of a kind and everything he touches is gold .. I could go on and on how amazing was last night and it is a bummer the writers don’t get the big picture or what we witnessed last night ! Nothing can touch that performance!

  • Mike Crocona

    I guess I’m the only one that thought the house PA sucked. The overall sound level was so loud it took away from Jacks carefully crafted sound. The show was great, improvisational, spontaneous, and was exciting to watch, but the Blaisdell couldn’t handle all that sound. My wife and I had to step outside the arena for the last few songs, we could actually hear the songs better out there. Perhaps Jacks sound people need to turn down the main level during indoor venues. I’m grateful Jack came to Hawaii and we were there to see it, but the sheer loudness left us disappointed.

  • shreddyvedder

    Late to the party, but pretty sure media reported Coachella as his last show since it was his last show. Coachella was 2 weeks, he played here in between.