It was a last minute announcement, the way these sort of special club gigs tend to be, when less than a week out word came that Jack White’s latest and least well-known project The Dead Weather would be making their L.A. debut at The Roxy Theatre on June 17. It takes a rare event like this for dozens of Sunset Strip club goers to wake up early on a Saturday morning and wait in line at The Roxy’s box office for tickets to go on sale.
For those who missed the initial announcement or perhaps just decided to sleep in, tickets for the show were in high demand on sites such as Craigslist and Ebay. And this is a band that has yet to even put out a record.
On the night of the show, everyone who knew anyone was crowded outside the club frantically making phone calls, looking for an “in.” In fact, many of the club’s staff members were reluctant to show their faces outside the club for fear of being guilted by friends and acquaintances waiting outside; this sort of “hiding” being the marker for any exclusive event worth attending.
Inside the place was packed to the point where even the VIP section didn’t offer much refuge from the masses. The crowd was heavily composed of industry folk, club regulars and guest list attendees. But the real surprise was the number of A-listers in attendance, which included Jimmy Page, Benicio Del Toro, DJ Danger Mouse, Har Mar Superstar and members of Queens Of The Stone Age.
From the moment the band took the stage, the spellbound audience knew it was going to be witness to a one-of-a-kind, memory making night. The set kicked off with a thunderous start, setting the tone for the evening with the sizzling blues stylings of “60 Feet Tall.” While White pounded out the thunderous rhythm on the drums, vocalist Alison Mosshart (The Kills) began her slow seduction of the audience.
Mosshart definitely took command of the stage, which was not an easy task considering, well considering why most of the audience was in attendance. Her raspy, whiskey tones channeled Patti Smith by way of PJ Harvey as she stumbled and chain smoked her way across the stage in a spastic trance. Together with the band’s bluesy psychedelic guitar sound, Mosshart bewitched the crowd like a preacher at a Southern revival.
There was little between song banter as The Dead Weather blistered through their concisely crowd pleasing set. White mostly stuck to backing vocals behind the drums but did manage to take the reins for one song, wowing the crowd with his signature vintage guitar sound.
The sexiest and most intense moment of the night came midway through the set with a duet between White and Mosshart. The crowd was on edge as barely a glimmer of light passed between the two singer’s lips as they traded off vocals and exchanged passionate glares; a kind of electric tension where you didn’t know whether they wanted to fight, f*ck, or both.
The band’s set ended in a crescendo of guitars, drums and applause, with the band even returning to the stage for a three song encore.
The finale included a much heavier and rawer sounding version of the band’s single “Hang You From The Heavens,” which was likely the only track that anyone in the crowd was familiar with. The band closed with a cover of Dylan’s “New Pony” and left the stage with a full group bow. For as much as White attempts to put himself in the background of his new project, literally behind the drums, his talent and stage presence still leaves people walking away viewing him as the vocal point and wondering what his next incarnation will be.
–Brent X Mendoza
Photo courtesy of Nic Adler