You’ve probably seen the constant posts on social media: Jack White has been tearing it up wherever he goes.
His target on Sunday is Pittsburgh, and it’s about time. When last he rolled through these parts, it was August 2008, sharing center stage with Brendan Benson in the Raconteurs at the American Eagle festival — not the ideal way to see Jack White.
Since then, the absurdly gifted 39-year-old Detroit rocker, deemed by some to be the reigning rock star of his generation, has been one of the world’s most prolific and talked-about musicians for a variety of reasons:
• Not content with just the Raconteurs and White Stripes (the date that brought him), in 2009, he branched out as the drummer for psych-garage band The Dead Weather with Alison Mosshart of The Kills. That same year he took part in a guitar summit with Jimmy Page and The Edge in the concert film “It Might Get Loud.”
• Also in 2009, he established a home base in Nashville for his label and record store Third Man Records, which made a splash at the SXSW 2011 with its Rolling Record Store.
• A month before that, in February 2011, he and Meg White folded the White Stripes, their breakout Detroit garage-rock duo last seen here in 2003 at the Palumbo Center (after working their way through the 31st Pub and Metropol). His most recent discussions about that had him telling Rolling Stone of his reclusive first wife, “She’s one of those people who won’t high-five me when I get the touchdown.” By the way, in that contentious interview, he also trashed the Black Keys, and then trashed Rolling Stone on the Bonnaroo stage, shouting, “Who makes music happen? Does a tabloid like Rolling Stone make music happen? You and I make it exist!”
• The Jack White chronicles began again in earnest in April 2012 with the release of solo debut “Blunderbuss,” a slashing, genre-jumping breakup album (made during his separation from second wife Karen Elson) that was widely regarded as one of the best of that year. Somehow, it lost to Mumford & Sons (album of the year) and the Black Keys (best rock album) at the 2013 Grammys.
The acclaimed Blunderbuss tour, which skipped Pittsburgh, took the bizarre tack of packing two different bands: the blues-rocking boys of the Buzzards and more ethereal all-female Peacocks. The bands and fans didn’t know which one he’d choose on a given night, but you know both were brilliant and explosive if you saw them elsewhere or caught them on “Austin City Limits.”
The tour that brings him here on Sunday is for “Lazaretto,” a less thematic and typically chaotic follow-up that sounds like he went into the studio and let the music take him wherever it wanted.
“I wanted to try and capture as much of the energy as we could while we were just cooking on tour,” he told the tabloid. “We did a lot of songs and a lot of them would be really fast live, and I had to go back and do a lot of editing to make them into something. They were full of energy on tape, and that was really cool to play with. I hadn’t done that before, edited in that way and pieced new puzzle pieces of songs — Frankenstein songs — together.”
This time, it’s just one band: pedal steel guitarist Fats Kaplin, fiddler Lillie Mae Rische, keyboardist Ikey Owens, bassist Dominic Davis and drummer Daru Jones. He has been a manic presence on stage, ripping through the White Stripes catalog, solo songs and covers ranging from Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” to Hank Williams’ “You Know That I Know.” The Guardian described the London show as “nearly two hours of increasingly deranged blues-rock.”
It could have played a bigger venue than Stage AE Outdoors, but if you were fast on the draw getting a ticket for the sold-out show, you’re seeing a much more intimate Jack White show than all the festival crowds. Who knows how his mind works, but he might realize that he hasn’t been here in six years and that he owes his Pittsburgh fans a good one.
Final note: If you’re going, keep the cell phones down. He doesn’t like them. He told the tabloid that, too.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: scottmervis_pg. First Published July 24, 2014 8:00 PM