Music review of the Dead Weather at 9:30 Club
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Somebody tell Jack White there's no "I" in "team."
Or "really awesome supergroup that rocks hardest when the drummer just plays the drums."
When White isn't heading up the White Stripes or the Raconteurs, the eccentric frontman keeps the beat for his auxiliary troupe the Dead Weather, a multi-fanged rock chimera that launched its summer tour at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, in righteous form.
White assembled the band last year, surrounding himself with some leather-clad, leather-tough musicians: Queens of the Stone Age keyboardist/guitarist Dean Fertita, Raconteurs and Greenhornes bassist Jack Lawrence and the Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart. But onstage Tuesday, he kept the spotlight locked on his favorite musician of all: Jack White.
Even from behind the drum kit, White preened incessantly, twirling his drumsticks between thwacks and leaping to his feet after his most riotous drum fills. It all sounded wonderfully punchy, but it still made him look like the dude who never passes the ball, refuses to share the remote and always eats the last french fry.
But White is also smart enough to know that the line between showboating and showmanship is incredibly fine. Can you blame the man for doing what he does so well? All of his groups have matched classic-rock gusto with a quirky sense of spectacle -- a winning formula that made the Dead Weather's ruckus at the 9:30 almost undeniable.
Much of the band's ferocious charisma came from Mosshart, a snarling frontwoman who appears to have found her wheelhouse in this outfit. She was a cyclone of denim and tangled hair as she opened the set with "60 Feet Tall," a sprawling blues number that took big cues from the sacred texts of Led Zeppelin. The band is touring in support of its new album "Sea of Cowards," but this tune -- along with the rest of the evening's most compelling stuff -- came from its 2009 debut, "Horehound."
Mosshart followed up by darting through the gnarled riffage of "Hang You From the Heavens." But after that, she was relegated to a chair and a tambourine.
White sauntered up to the lip of the stage, grabbed the microphone, basked in the cheers and started to croon "You Just Can't Win," a tune with a title that felt beyond apt. White was clearly the best singer in the room and seemed fine with sapping the show's momentum to prove it.
The closest Mosshart came to taking it back was during "I'm Mad," a tightly coiled stomper in which she peppered her lyrics with maniacal giggles. By now her coif had gone from knotted bird's nest to soggy janitor's mop, but it wasn't enough to pull the crowd's eyeballs off the alpha-rocker in the back.
Later in the set, White would again emerge from behind the drums to prove that, in addition to being the band's best singer, he was the band's best guitarist, too. It felt inconsistent with White's purview. Here's a rock neo-classicist who touts the genre's most time-honored principles, yet fails to acknowledge the magical mini-democracy that is a four-piece rock-and-roll band.
In contrast, "I Cut Like a Buffalo," the evening's highlight, felt like democracy in action. Mosshart and White shouted in unison, along with the song's powerful throb. Even with all eyes on White in his drummer's cockpit, it was nice to see the captain and his co-pilot sharing the controls.