Jack White, fresh from a successful appearance at Glastonbury, played the Hammersmith Apollo on 3 July. I was offered a ticket at the last minute after he’d changed the date of the concert, which meant someone else couldn’t go. So glad I took it!
Jack was supported by the Amazing Snakeheads. Great name – you just know they are going to be hard and heavy and bluesy. They are from Scotland. I’d heard a few tracks on BBC 6 Music and thought they sounded pretty good. I checked their album, “Amphetamine Ballads” and wasn’t so sure I could take the whole thing. It was a mid-tempo noise that wore off after a while. Live was similar, except there was an electricity to the sound. And it had attracted a lot of people. Normally the support slot at concerts isn’t that well attended. The Apollo stalls were 90% full for the Amazing Snakeheads. It felt like something serious was happening. Singer/guitarist Dale Barclay and the drummer were both shirtless. That’s always serious. This was hard edged rock’n’roll. A bit of Iggy and the Stooges. A bit of the John Spencer Blues Explosion. Intense.
As a 55 year old I can’t help making those references to other bands. And my verdict on the Snakeheads was: good, but a bit one-paced. But in the seething masses at the front I bet there were kids who thought this was the best, hardest, rawest thing they’d ever seen. The future. The same reaction as my generation had to the Pistols and the Clash. That’s the great thing about rock’n’roll. Always re-ineventing itself, always inspiring new generations.
Jack White was a look backwards and to the present. He’s got a new album out, “Lazzaretto”. He’s done all sorts of things over the past few years, but his finest moments were in the White Stripes. That’s where the blues power of his music met metal and made some of the most extraordinary music of the 2000s. The Apollo concert covered most of the bases of his recent years and I can’t say I recognised all of the songs. But, in a way, it didn’t matter what he was playing. It was just a wild, improvisational, hard-rocking, essence of the blues set. Raw power. I liked ‘Icky Thump”, “Hotel Yorba” and “Ball and Biscuit” because I knew them. But the whole thing was awesome. His band, with thumping drums and scything violins, complemented the wildness of his guitar.
It was an eruption of the blues. True heavy metal.
And it ended with a fantastic rendition of “Seven Nation Army”. The crowd went wild and did most of the singing. Visceral.
Yeah, Jack White has captured the essence of rock’n’roll, the electric, metal blues. Amazing Snakeheads are in a similar space. Jimi Hendrix would be proud of both of them…
Lucky man. Jack White is something else, his musical projects always interesting.
That thing about music re-inventing itself – you live long enough you get to hear it. I hear a lot of ’60s psychedelia being repackaged today, much of ’80s dance music coming back and doing that with significantly more polish. But I’m not entirely certain that the value addition really sums up to something worthwhile. That may have something to do with context. I remember a line from Eric Clapton – “You can’t really play the blues on a full stomach”. e.g. a lot of the punk bands I hear today do not have the urgency and the desperation and the anger that fuelled the ’70s misfits. Having said that I do love the metal scene of today a bit more than the pioneers. Just a bit more.
I think music is as good as ever it’s just that we have so many reference points.
Ah, well! Talking of metal pioneers, I read Judas Priest came out with a new one today. And the reviews have been good.
That comment of mine on ‘music re-inventing itself’ was prompted by a lot of reviewers going gaga over acts which I find relatively (sometimes absolutely) ordinary. And that’s because I had a context, of having heard something similar before and in my opinion, done better. To someone without that context, it’s all new and exciting and I can understand that. On the other hand, even a jaded old gasbag like me finds something to be gratifyingly excited about today. I would’ve shut down that blog of mine otherwise.
Having written all this, I’m not sure of the point of what I’m writing but I’ll let it stand – I rather like words. Like you indicate, sit back and let it roll. Maybe I’m just extra-voluble because I haven’t been able to hear music for a few days and will not be for some more.
Yeah, I annoy my kids sometimes, saying something they like sounds just like someone else from the 1980s, or whatever. But all music is a reinvention isn’t it? Even something that sounds really new will have been inspired along the way by something or someone else. When I was writing about “OK Computer” recently and listening to it again, it suddenly occurred to me how Bowie-like some of the tracks were. “Diamond Dogs” era.
Agree. Just that I’m in a rambling mood. I should use it to put up my next post.
Really like his work! Sounds like an excellent performance.