Third Man Records, Nashville - March 8, 2012

DARRYL STERDAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

NASHVILLE — Jack White just fired off a double-barreled blast from his Blunderbuss.

The singer-guitarist threw an exclusive shindig Thursday night in Nashville to celebrate the third anniversary of his Third Man Records label — and more importantly, to perform songs from his upcoming solo album for a couple of hundred critics, insiders, bandmates and contest winners.

Everything about the event — held in White's intimate in-house concert venue — was off the hipness charts. Invitations were issued on cardboard volvelle wheels. The VIP reception took place in the lounge of the Third Man complex, where giant stuffed animals and dinosaur skulls sat outside White's old-timey office door ("John A White III, DDS: Family Dentistry"). Swells downed crab cakes, sliders and mac-and-cheese hors d'oeuvres while quaffing custom cocktails and grazing at a candy buffet. Reporters were told to surrender cellphones at the door; fans had to turn in their wallets. Not that they minded: "I feel like I won the golden ticket," enthused 35-year-old James from Knoxville (I would tell you more about him, but I was warned that even taking notes might get me bounced).

Without a doubt, however, the coolest part of the evening was a two-sided performance from the man of the hour. "Is it OK if we play a couple of new songs for you?" asked the 36-year-old White after taking the stage in a powder-blue western suit (it seems to be his new colour). "We'll play some old numbers too." And he did, leading his two new bands through a roaring 19-song set drawn from both Bluderbuss (due in April) and his work with The White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather.

Backed by the the female sextet he recently debuted on Saturday Night Live, White opened with the Stripes' crunchy 2001 gem Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, then introduced three Blunderbuss cuts: The piano-driven Missing Pieces, the punchy Sixteen Saltines and the southern soul stirrer Love Interruption, the latter featuring the vocals of Ruby Amanfu. Also worthy of praise: Drummer Carla Azar (who hammers the skins like Bonzo's ghost) and keyboardist Brooke Waggoner (who supplies the nuanced shadings that characterize White's moodier, love-scarred new material). "You think the ladies can play?" White asked. It was a rhetorical question; they rocked way harder than a band with a standup bass, violinist and pedal steel player has a right to. Not that White wasn't holding up his end. Switching between a Gretsch solid-body electric and an acoustic — and occasionally donning a Telecaster, to the delight of the guitar-geek next to me — he peeled off searing solos, though he seemed happy to share the spotlight.

After more oldies (Raconteurs' Top Yourself, Dead Weather's Blue Blood Blues, White Stripes Hotel Yorba and You're Pretty Good Looking) and one newbie (the piano rocker Hypocritical Kiss), White and the ladies closed with the Stripes' We're Going to Be Friends and fled the stage, much to the chagrin of the crowd. But it wasn't the end; only intermission: After a quick change, White — now in black pants and burgundy T — returned with the all-male band that also accompanied him on SNL.

They picked up where the women left off, blasting through another set heavy on fan favoes (My Doorbell, Cut Like a Buffalo, Steady as She Goes, Seven Nation Army) and peppered with new fare (the propulsive Freedom at 21 and the folksy Weep Themselves to Sleep). If anyone found it odd to watch White play old songs with new bandmates, nobody raised the issue, including Dead Weather singer Alison Mosshart and Raconteurs / Weather bassist Jack Lawrence, who were both in attendance (no sign of Meg White, however).

Once again, the drummer stole much of the show — Daru Jones' animated showmanship were fairly magnetic — though multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin also earned stripes. Between rock workouts, White indulged his rootsier side with a pointed reading of old Hank's You Know That I Know, eventually closing the show with a sweet singalong of Leadbelly's Goodnight Irene.

After, the bash moved back to White's lounge, where he hung out by the turntable and chatted with guests, who were handed a limited-edition Third Man compilation LP in a gift bag as they went off into the night — most likely to post the goods on eBay, along with those invitations and VIP passes.

Jack White Set List:

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

Missing Pieces

Sixteen Saltines

Love Interrupted

Hotel Yorba

Top Yourself

Hypocritical Kiss

You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)

Blue Blood Blues

We're Going to Be Friends

*****

Freedom at 21

My Doorbell

Cut Like a Buffalo

You Know That I Know

Weep Themselves to Sleep

Ball & Biscuit

Steady as She Goes

Seven Nation Army

Goodnight Irene


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