Jack White, Lanie Lane @ Festival Hall, Melbourne (25/07/2012)

There was a lot of excitement buzzing around Festival Hall on Wednesday night for good reason. In a way, the Splendour headliner, hitting up Melbourne for a pre-festival sidey, was four acts in one: four spectacular ones at that. Wrapped up in the package that is Jack White was a debut solo act, a much welcomed return and a hell of lot of modern classics. Music of The White Stripes, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs was all to make an appearance in what was a generous, ferocious and altogether captivating performance.

Arguably as excited as anyone else in the room was Lanie Lane, who had the privilege of warming up the stage. Couped up in close quarters, Lane and her band looked like the true rockabilly outfit, although their proximity to one another might have had more to do with not bothering the multitude of equipment set up around them. Playful “Yeow” calls escaped Lane between tracks, as the singer did little to hide how stoked she was to be playing. There was no pressure, though, and the quartet looked entirely comfortable making their way through a romping set, complete with stand out numbers produced by Jack White himself.

“If you’re drinking Jack it’s a bonus,” announced Lane in her usual conversational manner, as the singer was more than happy to address the filling room and cause a few awkward laughs. Belting out the tune with its subtle accompaniment, My Man demonstrated the power of Lane’s vocals, and the double bass was rocking on What Do I Do, whilst a cover of Gold On The Ceiling grabbed the attention of a few less familiar with her own work. Rollicking her way through the half hour, Lanie Lane was just the right fit to open the night.

It turns out Jack White fans are pretty patient, as the packed Festival Hall waited up to an hour post Lanie Lane’s departure for any further action to occur. Speculation kept the room engaged, though, with members from both of White’s touring bands appearing here and there throughout the setup. Which band was he going to play with? And more importantly, what were they actually going to deliver? The answer to the first was given with the entrance of The Peacocks: White’s all female ensemble. The answer to the second was delivered over the following couple of hours. And it all kicked off with serious might, drummer Carla Azar seriously bashing her kit as White prepped his guitar for a psycho-rock introduction.

The White Stripes track Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground followed the brutal intro, with White’s voice causing a quite an audible stir in the room. Immediately, it was clear why this man is chosen to headline festivals, as he truly owned the stage whether he was near a microphone or not. Taking his time to approach every member of his band (positioned in an arch around him), White showed an instant connection to the other musicians, which in itself was engrossing for the crowd as they witnessed the whole act as a unit belt out each tune tightly, with force.

A trio of solo tracks followed up the opener – Sixteen Saltines, Missing Pieces and Love Interruption – and judging by the adoration on the floor and voices joining in, White’s “going solo” hasn’t caused him any damages. It took the four tracks before White addressed the punters, a simple “Well how do you do?” before getting right back to business with another WS track, Hotel Yorba, on which the upright bass and fiddle combination of Catherine Popper and * Lillie Mae Rische* really shone, creating a country romp that fit right in with how much of a barn Festival Hall is.

White took a couple of opportunities to tinker on the piano, the first of which resulted in what seemed (judging by White’s speedy muttering of the title to the band) like a spur of the moment decision to play I Guess I Should Go To Sleep. His piano work was nice, but on guitar White was a real star, as it gave him the freedom to jerk around the stage and unleash his inner animal.

With little to say outside of the songs, Melbourne was really only offered one tale by White during the set. He delivered a lengthy retelling of a Melbourne girl who’d stolen Jack Lawrence’s phone on the last Dead Weather tour here. In folk style, White strummed along, slowly approaching the dilemma of the story where the girl apparently lost her mind and was threatening suicide. “What am I to do?” asked White of the girl’s fellow Melbournians, a lead in to the following Raconteurs number, Top Yourself.

White’s set proved anything but quiet; the volume from the sound systems enough to leave ringing in the ears of those in surrounding suburbs. “Don’t feel the need to be so quiet tonight, we’re not in the library,” quipped the singer, trying to get the crowd to match his volume. With a bevy of “covers” still to come, the crowd were more than happy to oblige. Steady As She Goes proved to be the standout of the set’s later half. The song was met with a healthy sized mosh pit in the centre of the venue, which continued into Ball and Biscuit, and My Doorbell in the encore.

The grand finale was somewhat expected but nonetheless lapped up by the entire venue, with several thousand voices bellowing the bass/guitar line of Seven Nation Army to finish everything off. It was a superb conclusion to an overwhelmingly entertaining set; Jack White and The Peacocks digging their wild presence and performance deep into the heads of those in attendance to remain there for a long time to come.