Friday, April 16, 2010

Weather Report

The Dead Weather
The Fillmore, San Francisco
April 15, 2010

Hmm... The last time Jack White and I were in The Fillmore together was back in June 2002 when The White Stripes were there. I must have been on a guest list because I don't have a ticket stub from that gig in the Umlaut Archives, but I do have the poster:

The last time Alison Mosshart and I were in The Fillmore together was last May when The Kills were there. Regretfully, I wasn't able to see The Dead Weather's San Francisco debut last Summer at the Outside Lands Festival. Remember when The White Stripes and The Kills only had enough S.F. fans to play at Bottom of the Hill? Me too.

This show marked a rare concert appearance by Skychick, who has been a way bigger fan of The Dead Weather CD than Umlaut; she has it memorized and I could only admit to liking 1/2 of the disc. In fact, she had to remind me when we arrived at The Fillmore that Jack White plays DRUMS in Dead Weather. IT'S TRUE! Yeah, I've had my head into Metal WAY too much lately.

Several trusted Music Geek friends had already seen The Dead Weather and raved about them live... so something in the back of my head suspected the following might happen: The houselights went down at exactly 9:15 and over the next 90 minutes I became fanatical about the band. The songs that I didn't *get* from listening to the CD finally clicked in my head... Dear Dead Weather, please be gentle pulling the hook out of my mouth.

Dead Weather being called a "super group" is silly to me because (aside from Jack White) it's not a collection of iconic musicians like Shrinebuilder or Damn Yankees... I mean, the band is made up of the boy 1/2 of The White Stripes, the girl 1/2 of The Kills, the guy with glasses from The Raconteurs, and one of the recent guys in Queens Of The Stone Age. That doesn't add up to a "super group" with my math and I'm Asian! However, onstage The Dead Weather prove themselves to be a legitimately great band with enough intense mojo to make them special. It's not often that Umlaut's jaded Music Geek senses are blown away... but they were on this Thursday night in San Franfuckincisco.

The band's staging was predictably dark, but with blue instead of black.. which made the ambiance of the set even more compelling especially when combined with the requisite smoke machine.

They played in blue shadows most of the night, which fit the music and the controlled fury onstage. Despite the draw of Jack White, it was immediately obvious that Alison is the star of this band. I've always thought that when I've seen The Kills she would be amazing fronting a traditional Rock band (guitar, bass, drums) and now that image has become reality. Alison is a true Rock Star and she has a swagger and confidence that only dudes usually display in bands... Stalking the stage with a fag in her mouth... Standing on the monitors to reign over the audience like a Rock God(dess)... Playing a guitar and looking like a guitarist and not simply a girl posing with a guitar. She's a street walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm personified. Watching her transfix the sold out Fillmore crowd reminded me of seeing Robert Plant & Alison Krauss a couple of years ago and witnessing that audience realizing the magnitude of Krauss' talent. Just as most people went to see Plant and left enthralled by Krauss, I would bet alot of the crowd at The Fillmore were there because of Jack White but left enthralled by Mosshart... AND isn't it Music Geek ironic that BOTH women are named ALISON!? The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways.

Full disclosure time: As much as the band had me mesmerized, much of the crowd annoyed me. I was surrounded by normal people... hipster normal people... old hippie older people... normal people. I've had my head into Metal WAY too much lately, but when I'm in a Metal crowd I generally feel like I'm with my people. I didn't feel that at Dead Weather... BUT I wasn't there to make friends, right? I was there for THE MUSIC. However, I will say that I came close to punching a guy behind us who got very excited when Jack White first put on a guitar for a song.... and then he fucking TALKED about Jack White playing the guitar for almost that entire song. WTF, man!? Why are you even here??

Anyway, Umlaut's Music Geek friends will be proud of me for this observation: Both Alison and Jack played a style of guitar associated with the great Bo Diddley. Allison playing a rectangular Gretsch and Jack a version of Diddley's custom "Cadillac" guitar.

Someone throw me the horns already! The Geeks shall inherit The Earth. Anyway back to the performance...

So, the band's set mirrored the album by opening with '60 Feet Tall' and it was one of those performances where I was enthralled by how fluid the band played together and how they weaved an air of mystery about themselves. However, instead of being completely aloof, they managed to remain engaged and not distant from the audience. Also, while White was mainly stationed behind the drums, he did play guitar on a couple of songs... and at least a pair of new songs were played as well that fit right in with the current... but the groove Dead Weather dug themselves into during 'So Far From Your Weapon' was especially badass. It was such a deep groove you could have driven a BART train through it.

Despite my annoyances with some of the crowd, this will go down as one of Umlaut's favorite shows of the year. Jack White is obviously a student of Music history, and when he acknowledged The Fillmore a couple of times during the night it seemed genuine. However, the traditional post-show giveaway Fillmore poster was NOT done for these Dead Weather shows! WTFBOO!! BUT you could buy a poster printed by the band commemorating the show at the merch table. That Jack White knows the music AND the business, man. Respect.

Slayer hoodies = 1. If you bought one of every Dead Weather merch item you would have paid $190. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I know Doom Metal purists will be outraged, but I fucking dig the fact that The Dead Weather covered Pentagram. It's only available on a cool iTunes digital EP that features live tracks and video and also on a limited edition 7" single via Jack White's label Third Man Records:

(From the Umlaut Archives)

It's an inspired cover IMO. They could easily have picked a more obvious song or band, ya know? Me likey... and they definitely play it better than Pentagram did last month in San Franfuckincisco.