Jack White brought a distinctive sense of style to Voodoo for its closing night.

Photo of Jack White at Voodoo
By Cherie LeJeune

Jack White's always interesting, which may be the definition of a rock star. His bands are all provocative, all different, and his antics are just eccentric enough to feed more-money-than-sense conversations. Carry two bands on tour? Expect interns at Third Man Records to dress in the label's color scheme? These reek of indulgence, but the resulting work consistently mitigates the eccentricities.

At Voodoo, he bathed the stage in a bluish light with a couple of free-standing spots, and as was the case with The Raconteurs last year, White kept his band members close enough for their to be genuine interplay between them - not to the extent that Neil Young and Crazy Horse, who were close enough to all stand on the same blanket, but close enough. The guys won the draw and performed with White last night in dark blue suits. He wore a dark blue, pinstriped suit, a black shirt and a fedora that, when matched with the way his black hair falls around his face, made me think he was ready to trick-or-treat as Michael Jackson.

The set started with a ferocious, wreckless version of "16 Saltines" from Blunderbuss, and one of the charms of the show was that nothing on the night was too close to the recorded original. White could be a little extreme when his vocal mannerisms kicked in, but he offered a genuinely live show, not only with his intensity and guitar heroics, but as he revised songs from across his catalogue for the occasion, pulling Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and White Stripes songs into the mix. In most cases, it's clearer live than on record the debt he owes to the British blues rock heroes of the '70s, and the nods to The Faces that show up in Raconteurs songs were all over the place Sunday. Zeppelinisms? Too numerous to mention.  

From top to bottom, it was an old school show that offered little in the way of production other than style. Instead, it was a show about music and being a music fan, quoting James Booker and covering Dick Dale's "Miserlou" while making a big rock noise. On those levels, everybody in the crowd understood him and thought, "That's what I'd do if I could do that" - another definition of rock star.

Other Voodoo Takes 

- Jack White knows he’s a rock star, and he put on the classiest show of Voodoo because he could. Everything was highlighted in shades of blue, and the stage set-up resembled something you’d see during the big band era. Vintage-looking gear, drums raised on a platform, a band dressed in suits, and a signature hat on White’s head. Male or female band tonight, the crowd had to wonder beforehand. But it was the guys that took front and center last night at Le Ritual, except for Ruby Amanfu’s appearance to sing on White’s first Blunderbuss single, “Love Interruption.”

Old White Stripes favorites such as “Seven Nation Army” and “Fell in Love With a Girl” caused the largest uproar, an all-out sing-along in the crowd. When the garage-rock duo announced they were done in February 2011, fans assumed they’d never hear this music live again. The most fascinating part of his set was hearing each project’s music reworked. Nearly all of his material was fair game for fresh dynamics, solos, a change in tempo and instrumentation. And in doing so, he made the music of four separate entities become one. [Cherie LeJeune]

- Skrillex observations from the photo pit: Skrillex walks out with a mask covering most of his face and dressed in a skeleton outfit. He seems less human and more animal as he leaps on top of the DJ table, hands in the air. The bass overwhelms even my ear-plugged ears, a steady pounding that inspires a tightly compacted crowd to find some sort of room to dance. Medics drag a few dazed individuals over the railing for medical attention before Skrillex gets five minutes into his set. Sensory overload. I look through my camera lens, and suddenly fire appears, thick, stunning flames on each side of the stage. Smoke cannons go off. The crowd’s reaction is nearly as loud as the music itself, and I’ve altogether stopped trying to get a close-up of Skrillex just as security asks us to leave the pit. This show wins for most thrilling photo pit experience. [Cherie LeJeune]

- The Lost Bayou Ramblers have developed a smart, rock-oriented version of Cajun music has taken a while to get right, but Sunday it was powerful stuff. Guitarist Cavan Carruth has foregone much of his instrument's traditional role as a rhythm instrument in favor of heavy, distorted drones, leaving the rhythm to Louis Michot's fiddle and the caveman pounding of drummer Paul Etheredge.

The Ramblers were joined onstage first by the Preservation Hall Horns including drummer Joseph Lastie Jr., who took to a percussion rig at the front of the stage. While it didn't always seem clear to anybody in the Hall band where or how to add horns to songs from the Ramblers' Mammoth Waltz, Lastie seemed ecstatic to be at the front of the stage, free to play as he felt with someone keeping time behind him. When GIVERS' Tiffany Lamson came out to the same rig, they played together, coordinating their movements so as not to swat each others' sticks.

The combination brought out the Hall Band at its noisiest and most modern, though the one time it all truly came together was the closer, a cover of The Who's "My Generation" en francais. Tao Rodriguez-Seeger also joined the band playing a gold Les Paul in a rock 'n' roll powerstance, and the results were joyously inventive and appropriately sloppy.

- A tribute to Jimmy's and the heyday of New Orleans punk occupied the first half of the WWOZ/Bud Light Stage Sunday, and it likely made a hundred of so people happy - half of them in the bands. It was cool of Voodoo to acknowledge the roots of punk and underground rock 'n' roll in New Orleans, but when you see a bunch of guys in their 50s and 60s onstage playing it, there's a pretty serious disconnect. I've long subscribed to the theory that when nobody in the crowd wants to be you or do you anymore, your act has slipped from rock 'n' roll into nostalgia. As a friend who was part of that scene observed, the context made songs that were provocative in their moment seem slight, and it wasn't clear what was less convincing - watching middle-aged men trying to act punk like they did the first time around, or watching them not, playing the songs as immobile as mailboxes.

- There was less “indie” than usual on the lineup this year at Voodoo. But Royal Teeth’s song “Wild” has been getting a fair amount of radio play on stations like Sirius-XM radio’s “Alt Nation,” and that might partially explain the large crowd for their early set on the Le Carnival stage. I couldn’t help but think of old pop groups like N*Sync and Backstreet Boys when watching lead singer Gary Larsen work the stage, though. The electro-pop band’s emphasis on heavy drums gives their music a more realistic backbeat than anything those boy bands ever did, and yet their positive, high-energy music resembles a new, reworked, late ‘90s/early ‘00s pop group. The crowd loved anything Royal Teeth played to them, and I was left wondering if pop groups are due for a comeback. [Cherie LeJeune]

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