Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Weather

The exciting sequel to Weather Report!

The Dead Weather
The Warfield, San Francisco

July 22, 2010

Prior to the show Skychick and I met up with The Sheriff, Mrs. Sheriff, Kathy, and Robert at Ananda Fuara for some excellent Hippie food. It was a typically cold and grey Summer evening in San Francisco, with the fog and chilly air wrapping its arms around us like a zombie pal. In fact, the day before had been the coldest July 21st ever in S.F. dating back to 1875 (56 degrees F... and, yes, EIGHTEEN SEVENTY-FIVE... 135 YEARS..). Yeah, we don't have heat and humidity like most of the country, but at least we get killer concerts. This was show #7 of The Dead Weather's current 15-date North American Tour.

When I first saw Dead Weather in April I was transfixed by them and I was wondering if I'd feel the same way this time. I have the new CD but haven't really listened to it... but any doubts I might have had were put to rest when the houselights went down and the intro tape (an old blues song) blasted from the PA. The band swaggered onstage, picked up their instruments and, with the intro tape still playing, threw up a wall of feedback that slid straight into their cover of Pentagram's 'Forever My Queen'... YES! I know of at least one Hard Rock Ghost who was smiling down upon the room as that song kicked things off... and the set just got better from there and for the next 90 minutes I was caught up in the band all over again.

The Dead Weather onstage strike the perfect balance between moody atmosphere and raw energy. The stage lighting was more balanced this time compared to The Fillmore show in April, which had been darker, and the staging itself was minimalist but moody with taxidermied animal heads flanking the stage. The immediacy of the presentation was kicked up another notch by the absence of a photo pit in front of the stage, which meant the crowd down front were right up against the stage old school style.

The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and we were fortunate to have seats right at the front of the balcony (aka The Royal Box) which allowed me to really watch the band perform this time.

The view from The Royal Box..

I like Rock bands who have a cocky swagger about them... not a dickhead, douchbag vibe... but a street walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm attitude... and The Dead Weather have that. This swagger is magnified by how confident they are onstage... Jack White moving between the drums and then guitar for 2 songs... Alison as the front person (sometimes with guitar) standing on monitors, climbing onto PA speakers, owning the lip of the stage... and Dean (guitar / keys) and "the other" Jack (bass... and drums for one song when White played guitar..) holding down the band's groove rock steady. It's not simply the Jack White Show as most non-fans assume; onstage they are a band.

What? Oh, the setlist... The 1st album tunes are still just as strong live and even more so now that the audience knows the material and the energy level of the performances are jacked up as a result. The songs from the new album became breathing beasts as well, especially the 70's groove of 'Hustle And Cuss' and the 80's swirl of 'The Difference Between Us'. However, I will say that I don't really like The Dead Weather songs that Jack White sings... He'll always be the voice of The White Stripes, for better or worse... and to paraphrase Axl: I used to love them but I had to kill them.

My Inner Music Geek loves how Dead Weather are so retro old school with their instruments, equipment, and sound... My Inner Music Geek loves how their instruments are hardwired into amps via cords and how Alison's mic cord gets tangled around the stage monitors and mic stands as she stalks the stage... causing their roadies to scamper onstage to untangle things as the band steamrolls around them. Most bands at their level are all about the wireless this and the wireless that. I realized while watching them that Dead Weather embody the core genres of music that I love the most: Hard Rock... Classic Rock... Old School Blues... Old School Country. There's everything from Black Sabbath to Curtis Mayfield going on in their music. It's all right there, man. My favorite bands are the ones who are like Music History lessons for those willing to dig a little deeper. Dead Weather are one of those bands. However, while they embrace the old they also manage to throw in just enough of a contemporary vibe to make it all sound relevant here in the 21st Century. I know Doom Metal purists will scoff violently at their Pentagram cover, but to me it makes perfect sense. While METAL is my roots and my soul, I'm not a METAL purist and I love cross pollination like this; Dead Weather knows MUSIC and not simply genres.

If you bought one of every Dead Weather merch item you would have spent close to $300. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. According to the Umlaut Archives I've been to more shows at The Warfield then any other venue; this was around my 75th visit to the place dating back to 1984. Despite the shitty Summer weather this is still home... and it was nice going to a non-Metal show for once.