Jack White Casts a Spell on Baxter Arena

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Jack White does it all, singer, songwriter, actor, producer, record label owner, the list goes on, but one thing is for sure, above all, Jack White is a brilliant entertainer.

Playing to nearly 6,000 fans, White wailed and boogied all night to a storybook setlist. Pulling out tracks from The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, and of course material from his latest solo release Boarding House Reach, White dazzled the arena with his incredible guitar chops and soulful melodies.

In addition to handing out rock, blues, and funky jams, White treated the audience to something a little different for this show. There was a mandatory no cell phone policy. Patrons were given a cell phone bag that would lock their phone, and the only place to unlock the bag was a dedicated cell phone station in the concourse.

In an interview earlier this year, White stated one of the reasons for the no phone policy was a lack of audience participation. “Today people go to shows with a phone in one hand, and a drink in the other, so clapping has become a rarity.”

Jack White is notorious for his sarcastic banter and egging the audience on. In 2012 White abruptly ended his set at Radio City Music Hall in New York after being displeased with the crowd’s participation level, stating “What is this an NPR convention?”

I personally love the idea of a no phone policy. I’ve been going to shows long enough to remember not having a phone for taking pictures. I still have vivid memories of those experiences just hanging out with my friends and enjoying the moment. Heck, if anything we would take photos with a disposable camera. Once you were out of shots, you would put the camera away and just enjoy the show!

As for the crowd participation, I do feel like having no phones really did help. I noticed an uptick in clapping as compared to shows where phones are allowed. There also wasn’t the distraction of thousands of tiny lit up squares waving around trying to get a picture or record a video. Who knows, maybe more artists will adopt the no phone policy.

Before the show, I talked to several diehard fans from Minneapolis who made the trek to Omaha. Apparently, the show at The Armory on August 6 sold out in record time. A pretty impressive feat considering the show here in Omaha had a few pockets of empty seats in an 8,000 cap room and The Armory is around 8,400.

One fan said she had seen Jack White once before and the White Stripes a few times as well. She said she would still try and score tickets to the show in Minneapolis even though it is sold out. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

While I was hanging around talking to some fans I spotted a girl with a Radiohead tattoo. I recognized it instantly from Kid A, one of Radiohead’s most popular albums. I introduced myself and she said, “Hi, I’m Amanda”. I told Amanda I liked her Radiohead tattoo and she said: “Thanks for not saying I like your Deadmau5 tattoo, I get that all the time.” We both had a good laugh. Amanda went on to tell me that she made the transition from pop music to rock when her dad introduced her to Radiohead. After hearing Radiohead she opened up to more rock bands like The White Stripes and now Jack White. She said it was her first time seeing Jack White, but she was going to hit another stop on the tour when she visits her dad in Salt Lake City later this summer.

I love hearing fans talk about their musical journey. I feel like most people who enjoy rock and heavier music don’t always start there. They probably started liking pop and pop-punk then slowly gravitated toward a more heavy sound. As my hero, Jamey Jasta would say “Nobody is born into Hardcore”. As I’ve mentioned previously, my first rock show was Aerosmith, but I didn’t always listen to Aerosmith exclusively. When I was young I liked Weird Al, No Doubt, TLC, and even Hanson! Don’t tell me you didn’t have that mmmbop song on repeat when you were younger, it’s a catchy tune.

I digress. When it was time to find our seats I made that sad slow walk up the arena steps to one of the top sections. Luckily, the arena was a little smaller than Omaha’s largest venue The Century Link Center, so the view really wasn’t that bad. The opening band Mattiel came out swinging. Playing a bluesy set with rocking guitar solos and soaring vocals, they really got the crowd warmed up.

After a short break, the lights went down and a large screen behind the stage lit up. It had a timer counting down and when it got close to one minute, footage of Jack White started to play. It looked like he was peeking through a window into the camera. After the timer hit zero a bright pillar of light shone down and the man of the hour appeared. They cheered wildly as Jack White stepped out playing a loud fuzzy guitar note.

White kicked off the set with “Over and Over and Over” from his latest release “Boarding House Reach”. The arena lit up and everyone took notice. I think the energy in the room indicated that we were all in for a funky trip. Each song seemed to stretch a bit beyond the album version, with lots of improvisation and noodling from White and company.

A few songs in, White pulled out “Hotel Yorba” from the classic White Stripes release “White Blood Cells”, a personal favorite. There was a good mix of songs from each of White’s projects from The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, and his solo releases.

Towards the end of the night, Jack told the crowd that they needed to get up and dance.

“Did someone say you can’t dance tonight? Did someone say you are not allowed to move your limbs? No they did not! Now get up and dance!”

After the impromptu speech, White blasted through “Fell in Love with a Girl” and I witnessed the smallest circle pit in history break out. It was very short lived. The demographic of the show skewed slightly older, and I have a feeling they shut that down real quick.  Even if the circle pit didn’t survive, I did see many people getting out of their seats to shake and boogie.

After a small break, the band came out for a single encore starting with a jammed out version of “Steady as She Goes” by White’s project The Raconteurs. I definitely heard some of the loudest singing on this one. After one more song, White ended the night with “What’s Done is Done” a cut from his new album.

The crowd cheered and chanted “One More Song!” but unfortunately the show had come to an end. I was quite surprised “We’re Going to be Friends”, one of White’s biggest hits wasn’t played. I was really hoping for that “one more song”. Alas, the house lights came on and we were able to unlock our phones. Our break from the world of social media and constant distraction was over. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

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