The Dead Weather @ The Sound Academy

By: David Ball

The Dead Weather @ The Sound Academy
Photo: Amber Jackson
The Dead Weather @ The Sound Academy

Posted: July 21, 2010 – Toronto, Canada

You'd have to be a darn good band to entice the masses to pack Toronto's most reviled concert hall on a sticky July evening. Well, Jack White's other side-project, The Dead Weather, are thankfully just such a band. And uncomfortable as Thursday's gig at Sound Academy was—overcrowded, smothering heat, terrible sightlines and murky sound—a night of deconstructed blues-meets-hard rock offered the rather loud and sweaty capacity crowd a perfect 90-minute deflection. Touring in support of Sea of Cowards, their superior follow-up to 2009's Horehound, White (The White Stripes/Raconteurs) along with his Dead Weather cohorts, Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Jack Lawrence (Raconteurs) and Dean Fertita (Queens Of The Stone Age) kicked off their white-hot set in punishing fashion with Horehound's explosive blues epic, "60 Feet Tall". Featuring ferocious lead guitar work from Fertita, the tune also introduced Mosshart as a front woman to be reckoned with. With a spooky stage backlit by bombarding white strobes and/or a giant blue eyeball, it's a little strange watching the all-in-back White thrashing about on drums leaving Mosshart to handle most of the lead vocal duties. But both seemed right at home in their chosen roles.

Although White is the obvious rock star, Mosshart also demands your attention. Clad in black with matching shoulder-length hair covering her face, she looks and sounds every bit the combo of angry Patti Smith, Joan Jett and Jack White himself. Mosshart's voice enhances her tempting persona: it's soothing and sinister on "So Far From Your Weapon", but can also kick out the bejesus like it did when the quartet lurched through the Horehound single, "Hang You From the Heavens"; I hung on to my over-priced beer ever so tightly. 

It took six songs, but they finally performed a song from Sea of Cowards, the sputtering Patti Smith Horses-meets-Zeppelin: "No Horse". When it finished, a playful White emerged out from his drum kit. As sweat poured down his face, White chatted about the various places in Canada that ripped him off; no doubt some of the "alleged" incidents occurred during the White Stripes 2007 cross-Canada tour. The biggest laugh came when White claimed Newfoundland owed him a pair of shoes.

Aside from the jokes, the crowd responded loudest to older material, especially early on—some of the more inebriated even tried to sloppily sing-along. And as thrilling as it is witnessing this talented band jamming-out Horehound selections and even better riff-rocking crowd pleasers from Sea of Cowards, "Hustle and Cuss" and "Gasoline", the most alarming and fascinating dynamic remains White and Mosshart. Their sexually-fueled vocal interchanges are riveting. But their obvious sexual tension doesn't feel like love. Rather, it borders on hate-sex. Watching the two on stage throwing it down during "I Cut Like a Buffalo" and on the night's menacing final song, "Treat Me Like Your Mother", I don't think I was alone feeling a bit dirty, a bit naughty and even a bit turned-on; and I liked it.

Because I was huddled on the right side of the club, with tall people blocking most of my view of the left side of the stage, I found myself keying-in on the two Jacks for much of the night. Lawrence, The Raconteurs' bassist, has obvious synergy with his battery mate, especially on the driving funk-blues hybrids. But Fertita cannot be overlooked. He coaxed all kinds of nasty out of his guitar. He's nothing short of a blues revelation. But make no mistake: this is White's band.  The few times he took centre stage were definite highlights. Before the encore break, White led the band through a stunning slow-burner, "Will There Be Enough Water?; White took over vocals while providing subtle electric blues lead lines before hammering the jugular with his trademark screechy flurries. But even this was trumped by the four-song encore, particularly "I Can't Hear You", which featured a violent White versus Fertita guitar duel. Seeing White on stage singing and wailing away made me realize just how much I miss The White Stripes. But in the meantime, I'm thankful that The Dead Weather are out there, reinventing blues and digging around in rock's underbelly.

The Dead Weather
Photo: Amber Jackson
The Dead Weather
The Dead Weather
Photo: Amber Jackson
The Dead Weather

Video: "Treat Me Like Your Mother" by The Dead Weather

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