Jack White at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 8/8/12 (photos and review) - Reverb

Jack White at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 8/8/12 (photos and review)

After Jack White electrified the crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Wednesday night with an opening trio of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Missing Pieces” and “Love Interruption,” he stopped to look up at the sold-out crowd that had packed the natural amphitheater.

“I know you like country music out here, right?” he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he launched into a “Hotel Yorba” that was more country-fried, back-porch hootenanny than jing-jangly, good-times garage rock. As White lovingly featured his band – pointing to them with the neck of his guitar for solos and shouting out song titles on the fly like any charismatic big band leader – he gave up so much of the control he famously holds close to the chest.

A take on the White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba” with a fiddle more prominent than White’s guitar? A version of the Dead Weather’s “Blue Blood Blues” where the almost-western twang of the band outperformed the frenetic howl of White’s upper register?

White has gone from layering his musical output with self-imposed regulations and restrictions to trusting others, and as Wednesday’s show proved, it’s serving him well.

Did White just throw down the best show of summer 2012? Yep. It was that good, and with White confidently straddling material from his recent solo debut “Blunderbuss” alongside work from past bands White Stripes, the Dead Weather and even the Raconteurs, the musical variety was legit.

And White’s guitar work? From his newly improvised solos over familiar material such as “Steady as She Goes” to his standard licks on “Ball and Biscuit,” White backed up his reputation for being one of the fiercest, most unapologetic guitar players in the game.

On this tour, White alternates between an all-female band (the Peacocks) and an all-male band (the Buzzards). At his surprise show earlier Wednesday, in the parking lot of a mechanic shop on West Colfax Avenue, White was backed in a sparse set-up by the Buzzards. At Red Rocks, it was the Peacocks’ turn to shine.

The White Stripes material seemed to resonate best with the Red Rocks crowd, and most of it was stellar. The “Seven Nation Army” in the encore was a thrill, with White playing a mean ol’ hollow-body as he managed the faux-bassline. But “The Hardest Button to Button” was the night’s biggest moment, as the band exploded with life on the driving, plotting, melodic piece of storytelling.

As for “Blunderbuss,” it played well in a live setting – and side-by-side to White’s much-beloved back catalog. “Sixteen Saltines” slayed the slap-happy crowd, and “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” provided a sweet, relaxed moment for the energized amphitheater. “Missing Pieces” was an ideal way start the concert. The title track was a rare soft-spoken moment, a chance to hear White’s continued excellence in lyricism – one of his undervalued talents. And “Love Interruption” is one of the strangest, most perverse love songs of all time – and as White played it early on at Red Rocks on Wednesday, it was clear that this was going to be a very special night. And it was.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.

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  • Wpiper

    Best summer show of 2012? No way! I saw more than one train wreck last night. MMJ was much better technically.

    • KC

      More than one train wreck? Are you talking about the show or the audience? I’m confused.

  • Jjwood64

    I don’t “get” Jack White — I find his tones and approach far too shrill for my taste — but I certainly respect him as an artist and musician.  However, “Best Summer Show” before the Summer is over is simply a premature statement.  Not to mention the great shows Neil Young & Crazy Horse featuring some damn good new songs, or the special Doc Watson tribute set at Elks Park for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. 

  • Epiphanynlight

    Jack White is amazing! Last night he really was amazing and the all female band… just wow.  ALso does anyone know who opened from him? they were great!

    • Sixstrngz

      The openers were Pokey Lafarge and The South City Three

  • Mar

    The speakers were horrible! Had the potential of being the best show of the summer but Red Rocks Amphitheater dropped the ball on this one with much needed replacements to their sound system. Jack’s rawness came through with his on the fly moves and choices. I’m looking forward to hearing him again and at a venue that tests their equipment thoroughly.

    • KC

      None of the sound equipment belongs to the venue. Every event there either tours with their own gear or rents locally. It’s very likely the sound “issues” you’re talking about are directly related to the gusty wind. Even the slightest movement of the arrays can end up sounding very weird the more distant you are from them. I watched the entire show from the front of house mix position (row 6) and I can assure you the equipment itself was not an issue. Point is the only thing to blame here would be wind… not the venue’s lack of caring. 

      • Disappointed

        It wasn’t gusty. There was a light breeze at times … not enough to blow away the clouds of pot smoke. I can’t let the sound off based on wind.

    • KC

      None of the sound equipment belongs to the venue. Every event there either tours with their own gear or rents locally. It’s very likely the sound “issues” you’re talking about are directly related to the gusty wind. Even the slightest movement of the arrays can end up sounding very weird the more distant you are from them. I watched the entire show from the front of house mix position (row 6) and I can assure you the equipment itself was not an issue. Point is the only thing to blame here would be wind… not the venue’s lack of caring. 

  • Chuck

    Last night’s show was outstanding. I had the pleasure of catching him at the Wiltern in LA back in May. Whether last night was the best show of Summer 2012 is up for grabs, but I doubt there is any better tour currently going on in the US. If this tour gets within a couple hundred miles of your home, do yourself a favor and get tickets.

  • Disappointed

    We were sitting near the top at Red Rocks, and the sound was horrible.  Throughout the entire night, every 30 seconds, the sound constantly alternated between sounding muffled and sounding good.  It was extremely disappointing.   

  • Jjwood64

    Anything past row 35 at Red Rocks is a sonic crapshoot to me — that’s the general overrated part of Red Rocks (yes, you read that…overrated).  If the weather is windy, that also alters sounds drastically.   

    • Kdennis

      Agree that the higher you go at Red Rocks, the more chances you are taking actually hearing the show. However, I was dead center on row 36 and the sound was excellent – good volume (drowned out the three people squeezed into two reserved seats next to me, who spent most of the show trying to drunkenly talk over the music), nice detail for a seven piece band.

  • Mtnmc

    The show was unreal, it sounded amazing in Row 15. I went to Neil Young & Crazy Horse (amazing) & MMJ (good) this show blew them both away! 

  • Grant

     I can’t comment on the people complaining about the seats higher up.  All I can comment on is my experience from row 10 and that experience was EPIC!  After seeing the AMEX Unstaged performance, I was convinced that I couldn’t help but be let down.  I was wrong. This show met and exceeded all expectations.  Yes, I would have liked to see Los Buzzardos play part of the set, but the Peacocks didn’t disappoint at all. Yes, there was a song or two I would have replaced with others, but such is life with artists such as White that have an extensive songbook.  The venue, the crowd, the stage set up, the lighting and the setlist were all awesome.  Jack killed it!