NEW YORK — When Jack White wants to do something, he doesn’t let anything stop him. On Tuesday afternoon, the White Stripes singer/guitarist sought to tell a packed crowd gathered in New York’s Union Square all about the boll weevil, and not even a power outage would keep him from singing about the pesky insect’s plight. (Click to see photos of the Union Square performance. )
A cover of the traditional “Boll Weevil Blues” (a.k.a. “The Boll Weevil Song”) closed out the White Stripes’ near 20-song set, but not before the duo reached their one-hour curfew and organizers cut the juice. No matter. Sans amplification, the group persevered, as Jack White, after hushing the crowd’s booing, perched near the lip of the stage and screamed the dialogue between farmer and pest, and drummer Meg White gently tapped her cymbal in time. Regardless, the White Stripes’ departure from the stage was met by further booing and scattered fingers in the air — though it’s not likely the disgruntled concertgoers were proclaiming the White Stripes number one.
The White Stripes’ final number amounted to the only disappointing moment in the set. They began the semi-surprise afternoon show with bloozy bombast, tearing through a straight-ahead rendition of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” early to get the throngs of hipsters, passersby and class-cutting students caught up in the noonday good times quickly. The rapture wasn’t restricted to those on the ground, however; workers in nearby office buildings — and even window washers suspended from scaffolding — took in the show.
The haunting single was followed by a cover of Dolly Parton’s plea to a potential home wrecker, “Jolene,” and “Apple Blossom,” from their last album, 2000’s De Stijl, which brought the show’s overall feel from ramshackle rock back to the blues. The set smoothly volleyed between the two divisions, offering songs from each of the White Stripes’ three albums, including “Sugar Never Tasted So Good,” “We’re Going to Be Friends” and “Astro” — although the sparser stripped-down blues didn’t go over as well as the barnburners. Perhaps a dark bar in the wee hours would have set a better tone for such fare — Jack White even presented evidence that the time of day was uncharacteristic when he instructed the crowd that they were “going to play one more for you tonight” at set’s end.
Jack White wailed his best Robert Plant and ground out heavy Jimmy Page-styled riffs seemingly lifted from “Whole Lotta Love” outtakes, while Meg White pounded her drums with her pigtails flopping to and fro. The drummer commanded the spotlight for a cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X,” and Jack’s slide-guitar interlude that featured “Sister, Do You Know My Name?” provided a woozy bridge between the set’s pinnacles. Perhaps not surprisingly given the White Stripes’ attitude toward their success, they neglected to play their breakthrough hit, “Fell in Love With a Girl.”
The concert was made possible by Nissan, which is staging such semi-surprise shows in cities nationwide. The Z-tour, as the series is called, started September 17 with a performance by Train in St. Louis, Missouri, and will run through the first week of November, according to a spokesperson. The next show will be the Counting Crows at New York’s Battery Park on Thursday. Upcoming bills are kept under wraps until a few days before show time.
A new 350Z has been a fixture on the tour since the onset, and each band that’s played has adorned it with their autographs. At the end of the trek, the car will be auctioned off, with funds to be donated to an as-yet-undecided charity. Visit www.z.com/ztour for updates.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.