Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Crab Gumbo: Being a review of the Dead Weather in Las Vegas, among other things.
The Dead Weather was booked to play at the Palms, a Maloof hotel off the strip with a large concert theater called The Pearl. A 2,500 seater, it was clearly too large and too fancy for TDW, whose natural home in the land of Garth Brooks, Donnie and Marie Osmond and Cher would probably be a strip club in the Elvis Wedding Chapel end of town.
We got to the Palms early and rushed to the Blue Agave, a name for a virtual restaurant. You sit at the bar and Blue Agave comes to you. In our case, this was in the form of Crab Gumbo. It didn’t seem to have much gumboanity (I couldn’t taste or feel any gumbo file, or hot spices) but it was very tasty and loaded with more than a pound of crab meat, about 20 large shrimp and some kind of small, delicate scallop. I know Dave Barry has famously branded scallops as members of the Snot Family, but the little perfectly cooked ones are just amazing, and this gumbo had them. I was continually surprised by Las Vegas’ fresh seafood and this was just one more in a series of long pig-outs on crab this weekend.
My friend, along with nine others, won early entry from The Vault but even so we got there early and had a few from the closest bar which was probably called Bar None or some shit, and then followed the lady and gentlemen to a waiting area while the Ettes finished their soundcheck. As the screaming stomping sound of the rest of the audience echoed down the steps behind us we realized that our ‘early entry’ was actually 25 seconds earlier than the rest of the crowd, but it worked and we got to be front and center, arms on the metal barrier. We then got to watch ads for the Playboy club…and several other clubs… for an hour on the video screens beside the stage. I have never seen so many jiggling tits and asses in my life as I’ve seen on this trip. Correction: pixels of jiggling. I’ve been to New Orleans, city of total shlubs, so I’ve seen plenty of the real thing there. (And you know what? It’s better on TV. The real thing is less glitzy and you eventually realize they’re thinking about laundry or childcare while they’re doing it.)
The stage was huge and the Ettes’ gear was in front of the Dead Weather’s gear which for a moment led me to believe that every guitarist in the world has a Fender Twin Reverb like Dean Fertita. But the Ettes’ gear was some (other) old semi solid-state amplifiers that looked as though they’d spent the last forty years being thrashed by a Pilippino rock band in Manila or something. Maybe there’s an antiquing service for amplifiers as well as guitars…or maybe the amps really were that old. All of them played Fender guitars. Except the drummer. No idea what equipment she used as it’s impossible to tell with drums. The guitarist kept on drawing my attention as he looked (and sometimes played) like Dave Gilmour, but had long ginger hair and was strongly reminiscent of one of the Weasley twins in Harry Potter. Expected him to hand out candies that changed people into unicorns or something. Speaking of which, someone in the audience was smoking something…I’ve heard the word ‘skunk’ before but I think this person must have made a mistake and was smoking a real skunk…whoa.
The stage was huge and although I didn't think the acoustics were very good, it didn't matter as we were so close to the front we heard what the band heard, the PA being almost behind us. The Ettes impressed me no end. They played old time rock and roll (getting effortlessly into 80’s stadium band grooves as though it was that easy) and hitting several of my sweet spots along the way. The lead singer – I think she’s called Coco – wore black leggings and black mini-skirt, which reminded me of me way back when, but she had cooler boots than I ever had. They were also more into the Dead Weather than the Las Vegas crowd – she actually said so at one point – and some of them stayed to watch the headliners afterwards, which shows a lot of loyalty as you’d imagine a support band would grow to hate their headliners after about three shows into a tour. Not these guys. I’ll definitely check them out again.
At this point, I realized I’d have to get away from the barrier and buy a drink. Making some puzzling combat decisions (I’m not a natural for the draft) I pulled away from the primo position and forced my way back to the bar, eventually realizing I hadn’t brought either a ticket or sufficient funds. I had to rapidly negotiate with the barman, ending up with two Hypnotics(?) for twenty bucks (and the barman with no tip). No one checked my ticket going back in, but then I had to force my way back to the barrier with two glowing blue drinks in hand. I used the excuse me I belong here persona and it worked all the way through, back to my spot. Hypnotic turned out to be a radioactive ultraviolet drink made by somehow miniaturizing sugar so that four million tablespoons of it can be hidden in one shot of rather nasty drink. I won’t be doing that again, but I was desperate. I don’t think my friend liked hers either.
Jack breaks a string. It's de rigeur to say something like "and he
didn't miss a note!" but actually it slowed him down a lot. The end
result was a far more considered and beautiful solo. Maybe he
should just discard a random string before every show?
A few more hours, or did it just seem like hours?, before the behatted roadies oops I mean technicians arrived and began setting up the Dead Weather’s gear, handling their beautiful personalized white Gretsches with efficiency. My friend and I critiqued their sartorial elegance – there is a visible fashion hierarchy in the roadies even though they all wear black suits and hats. We dumped on the guy with the worst suit and made up little stories about how that put him at the bottom of the heap, task-wise. I love me a suited man, so this bit of a Jack White concert is always a treat, even though my feet by now were supernovae of hurt and I’d damaged a nerve by leaning on the metal barrier and my ring finger and little finger were numb. (Still are as I write this on Tuesday, in fact. I may sue.)
The Dead Weather arrived on stage to the usual strains of the good captain’s Sure Enough n Yes I Do. The band was on - no playacting or drinking or fighting tonight - and played an excellent set. Alison spent a lot of time on the monitors looming over us. At that range, she changes from sixty feet tall to being a petite woman on and off through the show depending on what role she's singing - it's amazing to watch. She really commands the stage and genuinely is one of the best frontmen/women I've ever seen. She has a lot of competition on stage as Dean has become a kinetic masterpiece as well as a riff monster, LJ continues to thrash around like a crazy man (with a crazy goatee) and of course Jack White is Jack White, so your eyes constantly go towards him. But Alison can remain a focus throughout all that. I wish I could have stood through it four times to be able to watch all of them.
The crowd sang along and was motionless but very screamy. Since the band dances to the beat all the time, I expected the crowd to react to it more, but maybe we all had sore feet from pounding the Las Vegas pavement. I’ve read a few reviews by locals, all of whom say the crowd sucked – I couldn’t see the crowd since I was at the front, but I’m willing to believe they did suck, as they certainly didn’t move at all, and the Dead Weather’s set was short (but scorching).
It occurred to me that the space between the barrier and the stage (that the cameraman for the video screens used - I wonder if he's bribable to release the tape) wasn't to protect the band from us, but more like a moat around a lion enclosure at the zoo, to keep Baby Ruthless from eating the audience. She tried a couple of times, but the mic lead got stuck and stopped her from coming after us both times. One time she ran from the front of stage right to the front of stage left, her microphone lead catching in the monitors as she ran, like a junkyard dog on a leash charging from threat to threat behind its chain mesh fence. She also played keyboard a couple of times, which was new and a real treat.
Introducing So Far From Your Weapon, Jack said he'd spent the day firing a Thompson submachine gun – “in your home town”, he added, with an unusually cheeky twinkle in his eye. I'd been thinking about going to the firing range and was a bit disappointed I'd decided not to, as I could have met Jack...
Jack wasn’t wearing what my friend and I call his best trousers, but he looked great – his hair is looking good, his t shirt tight, and he seemed happy and committed. Speaking of trousers, Alison was wearing a pair of tailored cotton pants rather than jeans. Perhaps the band shares a tailor – they looked exactly like LJ’s (when I saw them close up at the Roxy in June ) Hers were a little tighter than LJ’s though, so skinny that I’m not sure how she even gets them on. Since he was in my face all the time, I couldn’t help noticing that the cameraman in the lion moat did take a lot of shots of her crotch and ass as she flexed and bent, but the producer at the desk didn’t choose to display them, hurrah – he or she took the long-lens cameraman’s shots of the band over the T&A – very un-Vegas.
60 Feet Tall
You Just Can't Win (After song Jack says "That was a true story")
So Far From Your Weapon (Jack intros song by saying he went out and fired a machine gun today)
ICLAB (Jack killed it! Great version)
Die By The Drop
Child of a Few Hours...
Hustle and Cuss (This song is so bad ass. Dean rules)
New Pony (This just in...Allison is super sexy and a great performer)
Will There Be Enough Water? (Jack breaks a string early on during first solo and still crushes this song. Similar to the Roxy performance)
Blue Blood Blues
(List provided by the lovely Ace, next to me on the barrier)
Excellent fucking show. Had a great time. This is really a band to watch – though if you’re new, I fear you’re too late as I think it’ll be over by September. I bought the show poster, which is irritatingly not signed or numbered, but I bought no other merch on the way out.
I reiterate that I love the Dead Weather.
Edit: Added a comment on a photo above.
Edited: Ace updated his setlist and comments.