As we stood on the floor of War Memorial Auditorium waiting for The Dead Weather show to begin, our companion--looking at a group of fans fondling their new DW merch--said, "I bet Jack White could sell his poo and people would buy it." Maybe they would, we thought. Maybe. But not before shouting, "Wooooo!!!"
This was a night of much wooing.
Every time the house music reached the end of a song, the audience would cheer. Every time a roadie adjusted an instrument, the audience would cheer. Every time the lights got darker or brighter, or there was the slightest indication that something in the room was different than the moment before, people would cheer. We don't go to many shows where everyone seems so gotdamn excited about everything.
So when Screaming Females took to the stage, it was to a much bigger ovation than the last time we saw them. We can count on one finger the number of bands we've seen open for JEFF the Brotherhood and then, on their subsequent visit to town, for one of Jack White's bands. The Females are peerless in this category, and why not? Singer/guitarist Marisa Paternoster is a powerhouse, and the band reeled through a frenetic set of heavy chords and cascading rhythms hung with psychedelic shreds. They even played Spin favorite "Bell," and in the process won over the crowd (except maybe the two guys behind us) with their set.
Shortly after SF left the stage, we got a text saying that Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt of Green Day were in the house, though we never saw them. (Lots of familiar local rock faces, though.) It was around this time that the wooing started to get ridiculous. The band's crew, dressed up in black suits and fedoras, got round after round of breathless, anticipatory applause. All the waiting kept reminding us that we'd skipped dinner. But then, at long last, The Dead Weather made their (public) Nashville debut, to a roar that was absolutely deafening. The giant black curtain behind the stage was yanked down to reveal the band's backdrop, which was, uh, it was...a ghost-y fox head with, uh, some kind of shaft coming out of it, rising into, um, a ghost-y...grasshopper-flower? Or something?
Anyway, the band opened with "60 Feet Tall" and came out blazing. With the crowd nearly apoplectic with glee, Alison Mosshart writhed and snarled and whipped around like some hot zombie drunk on kerosene fumes, eliciting screams when she jumped onto the stage monitor and pointed menacingly at some lucky fans up front who, for all we know, fainted from the attention. Then Mosshart did the craziest rock-show backbend we've ever seen. If you had looked away for a second and missed the beginning of it, you might have thought she'd been cut in half by a laser, and just her legs had been left there, flexing at the knees to keep time.
The band, including an animated Jack Lawrence and multi-tasking Dean Fertita, proceeded to plow through their album's worth of material. Highlights included the lead single, "Hang You From the Heavens," the droning, trance-like "So Far From Your Weapon" and the White/Mosshart duet "Will There Be Enough Water," for which there was much wooing that coincided with Jack White's coming out from behind the drums, with his strapping on a guitar, with his opening his mouth, with his brushing his hair aside and, of course, with his taking a solo. As an eloquent young lady to our right exclaimed: "Jack Whiiiiiiiiite!!!"
There were times when the energy seemed to sag, and an air of bloozy sameyness had us thinking about our empty stomach. ("Cut Like a Buffalo," especially, came off a bit gimmicky, in a rap-rock kind of way.) But there was no denying the intensity in the room, and as we made our way out into the rainy night, we could still hear the occasional "Woo!" echo off the empty downtown buildings.