For Portlanders familiar with the enigmatic former leader of The White Stripes (and countless other projects) and the lush grounds of the McMenamins' Troutdale-based hotel, that's all you need to hear. For those of us who stuffed the ticketing website for over an hour, repeatedly refreshing our browsers, often times on multiple screens, that's all we needed to hear. It should come as no surprise then that this show sold out in about as much time as it took to announce, “Jack White is playing at Edgefield.”
So, rather than spill any more ink convincing you, dear reader, to sell your car, mortgage your house or take a payday loan so you can fork over the $100 or more per ticket that they're now going for on StubHub, this preview is going to focus on the Jack White who has manifested himself most recently as the ultimate audiophile—the guitar shop guy, who when enticing you to purchase the new Fender Strat model, riffs off a seven-minute solo and then looks you earnestly in the eye with a knowing look of “see, it can be done.”
This Jack White is different than the Jack White I grew up with. The Jack White I grew up with came into the collective consciousness around 2001 with the release of the third White Stripes record, White Blood Cells. With this record, fans were introduced to a form of stripped-down garage rock that, even though released in the age of the The bands (The Vines, The Hives, The Strokes), bore a signature uniquely its own. The album had distorted guitars ratcheted up to maximum volume levels and crashing, bruising drums all underpinned by a reverence for the blues. It wasn’t just stripped-down garage rock, it was, in short, true rock and roll. And then the honeymoon was over.
Sure, in 2003 the duo of Meg and Jack White released Elephant, a huge commercial hit and an album that contained one of the greatest stadium songs of all-time in “Seven Nation Army.” And sure, to get technical about it, the marriage between Jack and Meg White ended in 2000 before White Blood Cells was even released. But when I refer to the honeymoon being over, I refer to the time when Jack shared the stage with Meg. On Elephant and after, it’s no longer really The White Stripes—it’s Jack White supported on drums by Meg White.
This was the beginning of the transition that saw the death of The White Stripes as innovators and the birth of Jack White as America’s greatest keeper of rock and roll past. In the June 2014 Grantland article “Jack White’s Meg White Problem,” author Stephen Hayden explained it as such:
In the Rolling Stone interview, White offers patronizing (but not insincere) praise for Meg White’s “childlike” drumming. I might have used the word “essential.” Jack White wrote the songs, supplied the artistic vision, and did most of the heavy musical lifting in The White Stripes. But Meg White was the point of that band. Meg’s untrained, affectless playing was what made Jack’s songs seem strange and subversive. She pounded postmodern chic into that music with rudimentary steadiness.
Once Jack White was able to marginalize Meg’s impact on the band, so went The White Stripes. They were no longer postmodern chic—just bad ass rock and roll. No longer the type of dish one might find in a contemporary steakhouse revered for innovation and stimulating the palate. Instead, they were just a damn fine steak. That said, there's nothing wrong with a good quality steak that's been properly cooked. On the palate, it’s still delicious and each and every bite is as enjoyable as the last, but in the end, it’s just another steak done right.
Now, if I had the chance to order that steak in an environment with an amazing ambiance, would I jump at it? Hell yeah. And that is why I, alongside so many others, was on my computer screen and iPhone eagerly refreshing that ticketing page—hoping and praying to get to see Jack White at Edgefield. It may not be the same as getting to see the next big thing up close and personal at a more intimate venue, but it sure is going to be damn good.