Review: Jack White at Bonus Arena, Hull

Jack White
Jack White
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There’s something gleefully priggish about Jack White’s strict refusal to adhere to the parameters of the modern-day concert-going experience.

As patrons arrive at the Bonus Arena in Hull, they are made to seal their mobile phones in small felt pouches which are subsequently locked and can only be opened in ‘safe zones’ scattered around the venue concourse. It’s a bold choice to deprive fans of their 21st century tools; by stripping away their digital connection, White’s experiment is to recentre the relationship between performer and audience as strictly analogue.

It works too. The Detroit native has carved out a hard-earned reputation as a maestro of his craft, as frontman of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and his own solo career – and over a sprawling show that turns his repertoire into a cathedral of noise, he delivers with a blinding, if indulgent virtuosity.

He is the embodiment of a rock ’n’ roll Rasputin: mystical and maniacal, a hooded and wild-eyed visionary utterly electrifying behind his succession of guitars.

White’s latest solo record, Boarding House Reach, carries roughly only a quarter of his set, from Over and Over and Over’s amalgamation of dirty funk and Sabbath riffs through Corporation’s full-bore preacher wig-out.

As such, this is a dive into the archives, with the Lynyrd Skynyrd tones of Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground and Hotel Yorba’s barstool piano bounce joyously jockeying alongside each other early on. An Erasure-esque chilly recast of We’re Going to Be Friends is wonderful; winningly vulnerable amid the spacey assault of Catch Hell Blues.

There is an occasional struggle for atmosphere; a sometimes pedestrian crowd more geared for the latter-day White Stripes hits that never come don’t always appreciate White’s devolution into bombastic blues nihilism.

But as pure expressions of sonic power, the sound and fury of his frequent jams is immense – and the 43-year-old is clearly having a blast to boot.

Spying a circle pit during Steady, As She Goes, he slows the song to a crawl and cheerily flips the bird before re-engaging at full throttle. He tips his hat to late local boy Mick Ronson with a snatch of Ziggy Stardust’s intro.

By the finale, where he reclaims the meaty Seven Nation Army from terrace anthem territory, he and Hull are utterly united as that much-craved connection between the two bursts into unfettered, brilliant life.

No phones? No problem with a performance like this.