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In concert: The Dead Weather at 9:30 Club

dead weatherThe Dead Weather brought a mighty rumble to 9:30 Club Tuesday. (All photos by Evy Mages/FTWP)

By Chris Richards

Somebody tell Jack White there’s no “I” in “team.”

Or “band.”

Or “really awesome supergroup that rocks hardest when the drummer just plays the drums.”

When White is not 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 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.

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Even from behind the drum kit, White preened incessantly, twirling his drum sticks 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 where 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 righteous 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 poweful 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.

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By Chris Richards  |  July 14, 2010; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Jack White, The Dead Weather  
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Comments

What a disappointingly cynical review this is. This makes Jack White sound like a LeBron-esque narcissist, when in actuality he's the pulse of the band and the person most people at the 9:30 club paid to see last night. Even if you were for some reason put off by him, did you like the show? I honestly can't tell, this "review" spent more time calling him out for showboating that never happened than it did weighing the merits of the actual music that was performed.

Posted by: tylerjeffries | July 14, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Chris Richards review of yesterday evening's Dead Weather concert is myopic and inaccurate. Jack White was hardly the center of last night's Dead Weather set. Mr. White sang the songs he sings; Ms. Mosshart, hers. While Mr. Richards' eyes were apparently fixated on Mr. White the entire set, mine - as most people I spoke to after the show - were riveted on Ms. Mosshart. With her rhythmic gyrating - evoking Iggy Pop in her own way - and insane stare, she kept everyone's attention, even when she was pacing in the background, like a panther waiting to attack. And her singing was hardly second to White's. Until White stepped out from behind the drums, which he rarely did, I almost forgot he was there. This was Mosshart's show from beginning to end.

Posted by: jocopunk | July 14, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I wasn't at the show, but from what I heard on the radio and just read here with the comments. What a crap review and suck backside pictures.

Posted by: washpostlogin | July 14, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I gotta agree with the other commenters here. I certainly didn't leave the show with the impression that White couldn't help himself not to showboat. I left with the impression that the band kicked ass as a unit and Mosshart is a rock n roll queen. The reporter doesn't even mention the electric ~10-minute duo between White and Mosshart on "Will There Be Enough Water?" that set the crowd off. I'm hoping the reporter's generous proximity to the stage is what skewed his review of the show, and not preconceived notions of what he expected to see.

Posted by: somewhereinDC1 | July 14, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I too agree with all of the voices above me who have come out in support of Alison's killer vocals and vicious (but in a good way!) stage presence. It seems to me like the author just didn't bother to pay attention to any of the other players solely because White is in the band.

And can we talk about Dean and LJ? Because the band would be nothing without the solid foundation they put forth last night.

Posted by: SparkedHeart | July 14, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

The Dead Weather rocked last night. Yes, White produced chills when he brought out his guitar before the encore set (I'd say the evening's true highlight). But that was because those couple of songs were transcendent, building on an hour of driven, ambitious, devil-may-care rock that rested on its stop-start rhythms and the push and pull among its players, including Mosshart's spitting, snarling vocals, Fertita's amazing guitar and keyboard work, and Lawrence's heartbeat rearranging bass and drumwork. I could nitpick that the vocals were undermiked from where I stood (White's included). But ultimately, this was a band that rocked throughout their set and produced plenty of "holy sh*t" moments. And yes, there is an "I" in that.

Posted by: AaronFate | July 14, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I was at the show and at last year's Dead Weather show and Raconteurs before that. Hello, these are Jack White's bands. This is what he does and this is what the others have agreed to do.

The review is shallow and reeks of manifestations of personal insecurities.

From my perspective there were some ensemble timing errors in the first half coming mostly from the drums, but other that that, this was a rock star treat of a show.

Posted by: TyHardaway | July 14, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Until I read this review I thought I'd attended the Dead Weather show last night. Apparently I was at a different show. I echo an above commenter in wondering if Chris Richards is just a jilted Cavs fan taking his anger out on another Midwesterner. The Dead Weather is a solid band because of all 4 members and I don't think Jack White did any more or any less than he should have. I think the attention was mostly on Mosshart. And like it or not, the band sells out the 9:3O club largely due to the fact that they have Jack White. My main concern with the show was whether or not my spleen would return to its normal place after an hour and 45 minutes of some throbbing bass.

Posted by: bobwombat | July 14, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

although the reviewer apparently disagreed, the rest of us know this was an amazing, amazing show. thanks for coming to 930 club, dead weather.

Posted by: lauriespeech | July 14, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Hey everyone. Thanks for reading this review and taking the time to share your thoughts.

But I'm unclear on why you guys are saying this is a bad review! I said the band was "in righteous form." I said the set was "almost undeniable." There were lots of bon mots for Mosshart, and I said how captivating she was. And above all, I thought that White stole too much of the spotlight from his wonderful bandmates -- even though I admitted that it's hard for him not to since he's so great at what he does.

Like Stephen L. Miles once famously said, let's talk about it.

Posted by: ChrisRichards | July 14, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Man tried to pull a "homme" but he doesn't seem to get it. His ego's never been right for a band.

I heard Allison actually slugged him early on.

Posted by: k4man123 | July 14, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

in regards to Jack's ego:

On the Dead Weather's last tour they brought along a support act called the Screaming Females. Through a friend of a friend, I met the drummer of this band a few weeks ago while in Nashville who insisted that Jack was a riot, hilarious no matter what time of day and super generous at the post-show bars when it came to picking up tabs. So take that for what it's worth, but I was pleased to hear that from the guy I spoke with.

I mean the guy wrote "Elephant" and "De Stijl" folks. Seven Nation Army, Steady as She Goes, Ball and a Biscuit ... these are some of the absolute best rock and roll songs of the last decade. When you're that good and it seems to come so easy, it's probably a common occurrence for people to misinterpret once in a generation talent for egotism at times.

All in all, I can say with certainty that I haven't been to an adulterated rock and roll show like that in a very very long time. Heart pounding from start to finish. And while it was without question a treat to see a living legend in his prime on both drums and guitar, the show was so hugely captivating not just because of him but because of the entire effort of everyone in his group.

Oops, did I say his group?

Posted by: tylerjeffries | July 14, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Ditto the other commenters. I don't think the reviewer watched the same show I did. I think Mosshart won a lot of new fans last night. This was her band, IMHO.

Posted by: echowhiskey | July 14, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

@ChrisRichards: You're unclear on why many think this is a bad review? Well, you wrote more about Jack White's supposed ego than you did the music:

-- "Somebody tell Jack White there’s no “I” in “team.”
-- "(He) kept the spotlight locked on his favorite musician of all: Jack White."
-- "White preened incessantly"
-- "(T)he dude who never passes the ball, refuses to share the remote and always eats the last French fry."
-- "White was clearly the best singer in the room and seemed fine with sapping the show’s momentum to prove it."

I'm glad you wrote the review, though. From the commenters, I am now looking forward even more to the Portland, OR show I have tickets for.

Posted by: TMFSpeck | July 14, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Express also sent a writer to cover the show.... different angle (much more enamored of Mossheart) -
http://www.expressnightout.com/content/2010/07/the-dead-weather-930-club-july-13-2010-live-review.php

Posted by: endymionl | July 14, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I was also at the Raconteurs and last year's The Dead Weather; this show was not as good as either. I walked away from last year's show distinctly impressed at the time that Mosshart was extremely powerful in front of the band, but last night it was all about Jack and his drums. Maybe the year of extra practice has gone to his head, but the balance was not there last night. As I commented earlier, it was reflected in the sound mix last night, where everyone was overdriven into an indistinct buzz of distortion trying to match the volume that was given to White's drums.

The fact that everyone in the band plays Gretsch "White" series guitars is also hard to escape as something of a Jack White ego trip.

Posted by: lunicaster | July 14, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Have to agree with the group. I've seen a lot of shows across the spectrum, but this was the best. Throughout it, I had to periodically remind myself that my favorite musician was banging away on the drums. Alison stole the show. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Bravo.

Posted by: ChrisD5 | July 14, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

@ChrisRichards - I agree with @TMFSpeck's response.

Bad review? No. Missing the point of rock and roll show? Yep. It reads as if you have some sort of issues with Jack White the person as opposed to Jack White the musician.

Stuff other than Jack White:

Jack "LJ" Lawrence in many ways was the foundation of the live act. The bass was essential to many of the songs last night. It was loud and unlike many Greenhorns, Raconteurs, or DW shows, he was somewhat possessed. Shed of his good guy persona, he let loose like I've never seen. In two words, he rocked.

Sure, a reviewer could have called Alison "dramatic" or even a "drama queen" for her preening and mugging, but she was purely and delightfully entertaining.

The vocal mix was muddy and there were timing problems within the ensemble, but the show was fun, powerful, loud, and quite good.

Good show. Will probably be a great show as the tour progresses. It was easily worth the price of admission.

I spent some time with Raconteurs drummer Patrick Keeler and he, too, on sings positive phrases with regard to Jack White. In fact, generous, funny, and self-deprecating all come to mind.

Egads! I sound like a fawning fanboy of Jack White.

To be honest, your defense of "in righteous form" as being some sort of quantifiable descriptor is even weaker than the review.

Perhaps this wasn't a concert review. I see it's posted in the pop music blog.

Posted by: TyHardaway | July 14, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Anyone know what time they went on stage? I have tickets tonight for Boston and might need to duck out of work early? Thanks.

Posted by: gregdvs7 | July 14, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Can a rock concert - and especially one like this - ever really be seen as some binary thing? Can it only be good or bad? Can't it be both?

@ TyHardaway, It is indeed the review. It went on our blog this morning and will appear in tomorrow's paper.

Posted by: ChrisRichards | July 14, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I didn't go to the show but this little dance between reviewer and audience is the same thing that happens for every single review ever written that has even an inkling of a "this part of the show wasn't great" within it's paragraphs.

Nearly every show I go to is somehow on tap because I either really like the band or am about to really like the (new) band. My reviews are always going to be much more positive than someone who's there to do their job - simply a default. Any bad words about a show and artist that I've chosen rubs the wrong way, "How dare!". It happens.

I have no doubt that the review portion pertaining to Jack White was dead-on. I also have no doubt that the band rocked a great show. The two things can happen, and often do.

In the end, it doesn't matter to your love of an artist what Chris Richards thinks, does it? Dude wrote a review, seemed like a mostly positive one, so let's move along.

Now, give me that Celine Dion review from last year and I can once again laugh my ass off..."vocal flyover".

And, don't ever say a bad word about my favorite artist.

You gotta figure that at least 10 people at the show think it's the best show they've ever seen.

Posted by: saintex | July 14, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Chris, Chris, Chris:

You could be a good concert reviewer, you really could. But every review you write completely overlooks the fact that a concert is not so much about music as an art form, to be analyzed and dissected, as it is entertainment. And as subjective as art is, entertainment is 100% subjective. If the audience likes it, that's (almost) all that matters.
So stop trying to be so damn insightful, and try to just feel an audience's enjoyment. Cuz right now, you come off as snarky and pretentious.

Posted by: krickey7 | July 14, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I agree that people need to learn to take reviews for what they are and move on. Do people get furious with Roger Ebert for thumbs-downing a movie? I guess they probably do, but that's sad.

Anyway - the REAL reason I logged in to comment is to say: that first photo at the top is GREAT!

Posted by: josh_sisk | July 14, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

@ Chris

My issue with your review wasn't that I thought it was bad, but that I felt it was inaccurate. I was three rows from the front and dead center of stage and from my angle, Jack White was one member of a band that each contributed to equally. Aside from Mosshart's electric performance, some of my best memories of the performance of Jack Lawrence framed by strobe lights and smoke, thumping on his bass. My point is that Jack White in no way dominated the evening. I went to the show under the impression Jack was the band. I left thinking otherwise.

Posted by: jocopunk | July 14, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Fine, but Chris always writes as if he'd rather be reviewing a Tuvan throat-signing performance or something equally esoteric.
It's freakin' popular music. Get a grip.

Posted by: krickey7 | July 14, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Objectivity is at the heart of good reviewer and a good review. Predisposition to believe something before it happens is a fatal flaw. Given the first three sentences of your review, it is hard to believe you didn’t have these negative feelings regarding Jack White before the show. I.e., you saw what you wanted to see, not what actually happened. In essence, you’re putting Jack White in a no-win position. If he plays guitar, he’s doing so to show up the other members and remind them and the audience who is best. If he doesn’t play guitar, the entire audience (with the possible exception of you) goes home disappointed. What is Jack suppose to do - play guitar but just not as well as he can? I could argue, for argument's sake, that by only playing lead guitar on two songs he was deferring too much to his other band mates. In contrast to your observations, what I saw last night was a performance that varied from very good at times to phenomenal at times. I saw four amazing individual artists that are starting to hit their groove as a group. I also saw one of my favorite concert moments ever in a mesmerizing, “Will There Be Enough Water?” Lastly, and perhaps most surprisingly, is your comment to your own article in which you suggest amazement at the fact people saw your review as a negative review. One reading your review as a whole could only be left with the impression that the concert had little to offer anyone unless they wanted to see an egocentric, narcissistic (albeit talented) performer purposefully show up other persons in a public environment. Ironically, your failure to see the concert in an objective manner is trumped by your additional failure to see your own review in the manner in which it was clearly written. In other words, you have failed at objectivity twice in one fell swoop.

Posted by: skid1 | July 14, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Amen skid1!

Loved the show, shocked by the review and even further mystified by the author's post...Next time, I would love to know how you FELT Chris...I mean did the music move you or not? Art is art, I take no offense if someone doesn't feel the same about the performance but all the Jack W. egotrip nonsense got in the way of an actual report on how it rocked (or didn't). Overly negative on all the things that didn't matter and passing flattery on the things that did.

For me, the show was about seeing a band with all of its amazing members play--as a big Jack W. fan, I came away more impressed with everyone else and the dominating contribution they all had. In all, I would argue strongly that the vast majority of people at the show actually watched him/noticed him/cared about him far, far less than Mosshart who was amazing. Hell, I spent more time watching the bassist set the tone...

At the end, they produced a truly great night of music that was moody, powerful and a wonder to behold regardless of who the bandleader is...

Posted by: sjennings6 | July 14, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a fanboy, and there were things to critize about the show (a drum machine? really??), but...it's just a weird thing to focus on. I don't think I've ever seen a review that harped on one of the band members being too compelling a stage presence. Did anyone ever write that Mick Jagger should just stand still and sing like Perry Como, so he could share the spotlight more equitably with Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman?

Posted by: kfernie | July 14, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

I too will join the crowd of people ragging on Mr. Richards, if only because he didn't pan this flatulent excuse of a tepid Blueshammer experience!

Posted by: getpersonal | July 15, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

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