The house lights come down as we are attempting to find our seats in the nosebleed section. I pull out my cell phone to find letters or numbers or any indication of organization on the ground so I can finally find a place to rest my weary bones and soak up some rock and roll like a senior citizen. I sense my days standing in the youthful General Admission heap below are on the wane; half of my attention is always taken away from the magic on stage and diverted to the ache in my lower back and the ringing in my ears. I am aware this is lame.
We are still searching for our seats when the room goes completely black, save for the patch on stage that is awash with purple and teal. The band takes the stage. A bass line pulsates and people cheer. Singer, Alison Mossheart from The Kills, wears a navy boyfriend blazer, black striped tights that I can’t figure out are mixed with white or silver, and some boots. Jack White is on drums in the back, banging around like the most talented primate in the jungle.
The stage backdrop looks like a twisted botanical spider web. This is Disneyland as interpreted by Tim Burton, and The Dead Weather has come to replace The Country Bear Jamboree, having skinned them alive and proceeded to dance on their pelts. A series of spot lights pulse and flood the stage and dance on my retinas. At times all you can see are the blinding spots of white and blue blaring over the band, obliterating the art deco details of the Wiltern and rendering the music being played the only thing decipherable.
Alison writhes around in her trademark stripper influenced, rock chick “fuck me/fuck you” dance. If The Kills is the lusty early courtship, The Dead Weather is the psychotic aftermath. Each song instills in me a desire to be completely bat shit crazy; to spit in people’s faces and smoke cigarettes incessantly, to ruin family picnics and disappear for months at a time.
After a few songs Jack White comes out from behind his drum set and gets on the mic. I haven’t seen him perform before, unless you count the five minutes I gave to the Raconteurs at Coachella one year (There was something distinctly irritating about that duo, with one possessing infinite charisma and the other appearing to be lost in the wrong industry – sorry Benson). He is lit from below, allowing for a distinctly vaudevillian effect. His facial features hollow and shade in strange places and his hair flops in front of him. And when he stands center stage he fills up the room with an extreme density. He picks up his guitar and a guy behind me yells to his friend, “This is what you paid to see.”
I remember the first time I saw Prince. He got on stage, wiggled his jive thing, played his guitar, and squealed like a girl. But aside from that, what he really did was fully embody the music itself. I am convinced that Prince was put on this planet to create music; every muscle, every brain synapse, every bone was made to essentially deliver music to the public. The body as instrument, if you will. As I watch Jack, I think the same thing. Although Jack doesn’t gyrate emphatically while wearing assless chaps, when he gets on guitar his feet hop around as though he’s being electrocuted, his arms going stiff and straight when hitting certain chords, his hair falling in his face. He is music. And at this point Alison is entirely overshadowed, turning into a mere puppet in Jack’s musical world. She is the tits and ass in an advertisement, the dog in the dog and pony show. Mr. White orchestrates from somewhere far above us all.