Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Dead Weather at the Palladium, 7/21/10

My concert extravaganza--three shows in three nights--finished on an extremely strong note with The Dead Weather.  I raved about them last summer, and rightly so, but a lot of that was the excitement of something new.  This time around, they had a second record worth of material to choose from and a year of touring together under their collective belt.  The result was a band that has more than come into its own.

I want to call them a "dirty blues" outfit, but I think that's a bit misleading.  It's more like the blues filtered through a hard (and I do mean 'hard') rock sound, anchored by the slinky danger of frontwoman Allison Mosshart.  Oh, and Jack White's in the band too, banging hell out of his drum kit, and if he seemed a little raw the first time through, now he's a force back there, crashing away with equal parts abandon and precision. 

The setlist was front-loaded with songs from last year's debut Horehound, with "60 Feet Tall" taking its time to get to guitarist Dean Fertita's calamitous solos, and "Hang You From the Heavens" priming the crown with a song they knew.  At this point White made his way out to the front of the stage, and after introducing 'Ulysses S. Grant' and uttering some strong words about someone's plan ("Probably your fucking governor!") to put Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill, he sang a killer rendition of Them's "You Just Can't Win."  As great as Mosshart is, she doesn't have the built-in fanbase of White, and the crowd predictably went crazy for him.

A few songs later they dove into a batch of the new material with the ominous keyboard of "Die by the Drop," and the intensity level went way up.  For a four piece they make a hell of a racket, and the chorus of "I'm gonna take you for worse or better!"--even being screamed by Mosshart and White--just barely clawed its way over the thunderous music.  The four song stretch made up the strongest part of the set, with the (appropriately) insane-sounding "I'm Mad" standing out as a particular highlight.  Starting with a little jazz beat and Mosshart declaring the title and laughing, it shifts halfway through with an almost organ-like guitar part, before coming back down at the end.

The last song of the main set was "Will There Be Enough Water?" which saw bassist Jack Lawrence switch to drums and White come back out on guitar for a duet.  While he and Mosshart paced around and pressed up into each other, my mind unexpectedly went to White's wife, Karen Elson.  How could she possibly be comfortable with him performing every night with someone that he shares such a strong sexual energy?  But White is a musician first and a showman right after that, and however real the chemistry is, he must know it makes for a powerful moment.  As they sang into each other's faces without the help of the microphone, even the typical LA chattiness couldn't stop me from getting the chills.

Set List: 60 Feet Tall / Hang You From the Heavens / You Just Can't Win (Them cover) / So Far From Your Weapon / I Cut Like a Buffalo / No Horse / A Child of a Few Hours is Burning to Death (West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band cover) / Die by the Drop / The Difference Between Us / I'm Mad / Hustle and Cuss / New Pony / Will There Be Enough Water?

Encore: Blue Blood Blues / Gasoline / I Can't Hear You / Treat Me Like Your Mother

Photos by David Hall, OC Register

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