Jack White and his Peacocks prove tough to follow in Vancouver

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      At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Sunday, May 27

      At the risk of suggesting one of the greatest artists of this generation is a liar, let’s throw this out: there is no all-male backing band. That, of course, is not what Jack White would have us believe.

      As has been well-documented, White has an impish habit of bending the truth, this probably inspired by the P.T. Barnum huckster inside of him. And as he’s been telling folks in interviews for his Top 10–bound debut solo album, Blunderbuss, his first tour going it alone has him backed by two separate bands, one of them all girls (the Peacocks) and other all boys (Los Buzzardos).

      Sure, the fact that Jack White popped up a few weeks back on England’s Later... With Jools Holland flanked by a bunch of dudes, billed as Los Buzzardos, might suggest that the men do in fact exist. But it’s also possible that boob-tube showcase was staged to throw fans off the scent. Because, really, what guys could handle the mission-impossible task of having to top the brilliance of what Vancouver was lucky enough to witness on Sunday?

      You want fucking awesome? That would be the sight of “13-months-pregnant” Bryn Davies skipping on-stage and proceeding to give ’er on her standup bass like the ’50s never went out of style. Or blond pedal-steel player Margaret Björklund, who seemed ripped right from the pages of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, not because she was Danish, but because women simply don’t play the pedal steel, especially when they are from Denmark.

      The spectacle didn’t stop there. Let’s not overlook the ass-kicking mastery of drummer Carla Azar; on a mission to channel both Keith Moon and the timekeeping monkey from the Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatry” video, she was arguably the most captivating person on-stage. From a strictly musical perspective, best-in-show honours went to flame-haired keyboardist Brooke Waggoner, who was as at-home unleashing her inner funk queen as she was rolling out the saloon-boogie blues. Bringing the soul was backup singer Ruby Amanfu. Adding plenty of down-home warmth was fiddle player Lillie Mae Rische.

      By the way, did we mention that every member of the band was wearing a Lawrence Welk Show–vintage powder-blue dress, that colour reflecting the muted stage lighting? Actually, make that every member of the band except one: White opted for a blue-pants-and-matching-jacket combo, accessorized by a same-tone tie that would stay smartly in place until he whipped it off during an extended encore.

      What’s the message here? That’s easy: it might have been Jack White’s gig, but one of the most killer concerts of the year was a group effort in every sense of the word.

      What was interesting was the way that the modern-day guitar hero made no attempt to ignore his legacy. White could have been forgiven for wanting to focus exclusively on the strong-from-start-to-finish Blunderbuss , thereby leaving zero question that the man who’s given us the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather is indeed an honest-to-God stand-alone solo artist. Instead, he got the crowd on-board from the first note, leading his backing charges through a thunderstruck version of the Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”.

      The two hours that followed would find him raiding his back catalogue, highlights including a stadium-size, call-and-response reinvention of the Raconteurs’ “Steady, as She Goes” and a drama-drenched mounting of that same unit’s “Carolina Drama”. The Dead Weather’s “Blue Blood Blues” also showed up, as did “Two Against One” from White’s Rome collaboration with Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi.

      The first spine-chilling moment came four songs into the night, with a slinky, organ-soaked “Love Interruption” getting an unexpectedly massive roar from the crowd. That was followed by White announcing “We’re going to play some country for you—there’s got to be some people from Calgary here,” and then heading to hoe-down territory with a fiddle-scorched take on the Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba”.

      As much as the Peacocks looked like they could hold their own at the Grand Ole Opry, it wasn’t all country-fried goodness, with White unleashing some awe-inspiring metallic–K.O. guitar violence in Blunderbuss offerings like “Hypocritical Kiss”. He’d prove just as adept on the ivories as on the guitar during a frantic “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep”. And he showed himself willing to give the people what they want with a lumbering version of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, the song closing the show to the disappointment of no one.

      Well, no one except Los Buzzardos, if in fact they exist, because the Peacocks weren’t just good this night, they were on fucking fire, to the point where having to follow them would be utterly thankless. And that, even Jack White would have to agree, was no lie.

      Follow Mike Usinger on the Tweeter at twitter.com/mikeusinger.



      out at night

      May 28, 2012 at 12:13pm

      Thank you Mr. White and thank you Peacocks, and thank you Mr. Usinger for a fine, spot-on review. And thanks again to JW for not allowing cameras, cell phones etc during the show. Nothing I like to see more than performers, a stage and an audience wrapped in velvety darkness, like the old days. Do I pay to see your freakin' electronic device? No, I do not. Text your buddies or check your emails in the lobby, or better yet, leave the infernal thing at home.

      What a show - concert of the year right here!

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      John Lucas

      May 28, 2012 at 12:27pm

      The Peacocks might be cross-dressing dudes. The clue is right there in the name. A peacock is a male bird. If they're all women, shouldn't the band be called "the Peahens"?

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      May 28, 2012 at 12:42pm

      Usinger on fire.

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      cranky mom

      May 28, 2012 at 1:53pm

      Everything was perfect. The symbol rolling across the stage was priceless.

      Too bad the QE staff took offense to people standing and dancing beside their seats, and telling us to get back and sit down. Jack is going to come up here and kick your ass personally.

      I found it impossible to not dance and jump up and down and thrash my head back and forth like a fucking maniac.

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      May 28, 2012 at 3:17pm

      The show was unbelievable. You had to be there – although this review does a great job of capturing the vibe. Like Mike I had a hard time keeping my eyes off Carla Azar – and not just because the sight of a woman wearing a southern country dress with her legs bouncing up and down while going all Keith Moon/John Bonham on the drum kit was somewhat... erotic? Aside from that no one works harder than White to make sure the audience is completely wrung out. And yeah, the cell phone ban was great. Too bad the doofus in front of me didn't agree...

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      May 28, 2012 at 3:27pm

      Like Supertramp at Empire Stadium in '79, I have a feeling I'm going to regret missing this one for a very long time.

      I'm also disappointed to read cranky mom's comment that the QE staff were pushing people back in their seats. Especially when Jack is <a href="http://bit.ly/bZ7jwT">on record</a> as believing those who don't rock out at his shows are "hip motherfuckers" who deserve to have their free drinks shoved down their throats!

      Let all the children boogie, I say.

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      jack white

      May 29, 2012 at 11:00am

      Los Buzzardos were great at the Sasquatch festival too!

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      May 29, 2012 at 12:46pm

      I was up on the balcony and no one was telling the few (good for them) people along the stairs dancing to sit down. There must have been a power-tripper by "cranky mom"; too bad. I don't like seated venues, but this was an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING show. I believe there is the Los Buzzardos; that's why I was so happy when I saw the ladies stride on stage. There's something special about the way a woman plays an instrument as opposed to a man. What a GREAT fucking night!!

      I've seen, literally, hundreds of gigs, and this one (the only seated one to make it in my picks) is EASILY tied as being one of the handful of BEST LIVE SHOWS EVER!!!

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      Seth Meister

      May 29, 2012 at 1:44pm

      Great review, Mike. Amazing show!

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      Mean Meister Mustardo

      Jun 8, 2012 at 4:08pm

      Somebody set Usinger on fire before he fucking overdoes the enthusiasm again!

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