The Dead Weather - Bristol Academy
The augurs are not good. The first thing you see as you step inside the Academy is a merchandise stall which is knocking out “limited edition art prints” and, golly, there’s only 50 available for each show at 'just' £20 a pop. Hey kids Rock ‘n’ Roll! I don’t know why Mr White doesn’t go the whole hog and start selling silverplate cutlery services and fondue sets, maybe even start up a wedding list service for the throngs of curious middle aged punters who mill around the venue wondering why they can’t see anything from any vantage point. Once inside it gets worse as, up on the balcony a funky dad berates a child, who can be barely older than six, for being a “stupid, stupid, IDIOT” for losing his precious 2 inches of space from which he can actually see the stage. As his furious spittle splashes and foams across the child’s aghast face it crosses my mind that we might be about to witness the death and burial of the spirit of rock 'n' roll all in one night.
You are educated people, you know from your studies of classical history that the augurs never lie but for a brief flickering moment it seemed as though salvation was at hand. If nothing else White is a master of style over substance and when the band arrive on stage they ooze danger and filth from every pore. In none more black outfits and brandishing gleaming white Gretsch guitars they appear as Gods. Angular silhouettes, shrouded in dry ice and backlit by a million rabid strobe lamps, strike every pose in the rock star handbook (1974 edition, previously owned by Bobby Gillespie and Blue Cheer before him) but it is all so divorced from rock n roll that after 5 minutes your mind starts to wander and you catch yourself wondering whether you remembered to leave Countryfile taping before you left the house.
This is more of a theatrical, celebrity driven experience than a rock n roll show. Half the crowd wander around the venue wondering why they paid £20 to be able to not quite see a singer from a hackneyed, derivative blues band play the drums in another one. The rest of them hold up camera phones desperate to capture the whole show in shakycam vision so they can upload it to You Tube and prove to the world that they were there, in the same room as Jack White ‘cos he’s like proper famous or something or whatever. It is tragic really as The Kills', Mosshart is undoubtedly a great frontwoman; but that doesn’t really interest this crowd who listen politely to her tear through ‘Hang You From The Heavens’ and ‘Treat Me Like Your Mother’ then erupt into ecstatic mayhem when White steps up from the drumkit for a few seconds to take the mic. It would have been a slicker, quicker operation for him to have just walked on stage, signed a few ‘exclusive art print’ autographs and left.
As we exit the building we pass Mr Spittle who is stood at the merchandise stall haggling for a 2 for 1 deal on the exclusive White Stripes carriage clocks and Raconteurs canasta set. I look down at his offspring and pray that, for the sake of his generation, there’s a nuclear Armageddon waiting around the corner.