Jack White - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 8 Nov 2012 (4 stars)

Jack White - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 8 Nov 2012

The White Stripes man's show is by turns both surprising and comfortably predictable

Jack White’s come a long way since the days he could comfortably make a racket as part of a power duo with Meg in the White Stripes. A couple of regular bands have followed in between, and now for his first solo album, Blunderbuss, he’s touring with two individual sextets, the all-female Peacocks and all-male bar-room bluesers Los Buzzardos, who each supported him for alternate halves of the set here. At this rate, expect a philharmonic orchestra to be rolled out for the next record.

In this context it was a show that was both surprising and comfortably predictable. Musically, White’s never going to stray too far from the plot – chugging, blunt-instrument guitar riffs turned up so the floor vibrates, and a vocal performance that’s somewhere between a shriek and a yelp – but at least the format here is designed to mix that up as much as possible. The Peacocks set was certainly the most visually memorable, with the black-clad White standing in the middle of the stage while the elegantly white-dressed women fanned out in a semi-circle around him.

This part of the show also represented a musical change from the norm, if only a slight one, with a country edge coming over strongly in most of the tracks (that’s the genre most of the women make their day-to day living in). There was, for example, a fiddle-assisted take on the White Stripes’ ‘Hotel Yorba’ and a more mellow rootsiness to tracks from Blunderbuss including ‘Hypocritical Kiss’ and the title song. It was a nice and not unfamiliar change of pace from White’s usual style, although a certain meatiness returned with the Led Zeppelin crunch of Dead Weather’s ‘I Cut Like a Buffalo’ and the hard-to-resist singalong chorus of The Raconteurs’ ‘Steady as She Goes’, both examples of his mid-period career.

By contrast, Los Buzzardos were positively macho, taking the stage with a strut and a squeal of overdriven feedback for ‘The Hardest Button to Button’ and ‘Trash Tongue Talker’. Hank Williams’ ‘You Know That I Know’ was reborn as a blues holler and ‘We’re Going to Be Friends’ held a raw bluegrass element, but this section of the show was where White’s somewhat trad but eternally exciting instincts as an unreconstructed guitar-rocker were best exercised, as demonstrated by a terrifically raucous ‘Seven Nation Army’. Finally, inviting both bands on for a mournful version of country standard ‘Goodnight Irene’ was a touching way to end the last date of this tour.

Jack White - Good Night Irene

Jack White

Ragged blues from the former White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather guitarist/singer.