“You’re so full of sunshine”, the Kills’ Jamie Hince tells the crowd in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, as he and Alison Mosshart power through their songs and those initial droplets of rain start to fall. And fall they do, relentlessly, through both the Kills’ and headliner Jack White’s sets; oddly though, as cold and wet as everyone is, it all seems a minor, beer-diluting distraction when the performances are as good as this.
The Kills stalk the stage in front of a leopard print backdrop, backed by a drum machine and two sentient sticksmen on choreographed floor tom duties. Mosshart and Hince, a duo in the mould clearly close to Jack White’s heart, have a magnetic stage presence. They bounce around the stage within one another’s orbit, at some points close enough to recoil like rattlers with guitars wedged between them, at others inhabiting the far wings looking on as the other does their thing. It’s a predominantly garage-y, heavy-riffing set. When Hince does a sideways shuffle over to Mosshart to sing over her shoulder on ‘Tape Song’, it’s the memory of MC5 that imprints itself into the mind, and they seem to succeed in making this bill more double-header than support slot.
Jack White – Stripe, Raconteur, Dead Weatherman – is not one to be outdone in the showmanship stakes, walking out in green suit and white hat, shedding his jacket and nonchalantly going about knotting a tie as Daru Jones hammers out a rollicking drum intro behind him. An extended ‘High Ball Stepper’ sets the bar for a set that builds as unremittingly as the rain is falling. White’s there with everyone in solidarity though, “Are you alive and well? I’m standing in the rain with you right now”.
Indeed, every now and then he is, coming out to the front of the monitors to hear the crowd sing ‘Hotel Yorba’, lifted by the lovely country fiddle of Lily Mae Rische. Her vocal harmonies impress on ‘Weep Themselves to Sleep’, with White switching from acoustic to electric halfway. ‘Steady as She Goes’ later in the set is dedicated to Rische on her birthday, with White holding a B chord and instructing each band member to express their love for the fiddle player.
‘You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket’ channels Neil Young, while newer cut ‘Just One Drink’ is relatively brief in relation to the rest of tonight’s elongated jams, a raucous Faces-esque party tune. White’s band are in fine fettle and none more so than the understated Fats Kaplin on pedal steel, mandolin and fiddle. He mans the theremin on ‘Top Yourself’, standing stock-still like a mad conductor, only his fingers moving as a TV flickers static lines in front of him. White forms a tight unit with the rhythm section at certain junctures – closing in with them, back to everyone – then breaking open the cluster as the song goes through its many momentum modifications and transformations.
The “not afraid of standing out in the rain” lyric White pointedly sings on ‘Would You Fight for My Love?’ elicits a cheer from the sodden gathering as the encore beckons, and all the inclement weather in Ireland couldn’t temper the frontstage crowd at this point in the night. ‘Icky Thump’ leads into the Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’; ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ is a slowed, wailing triumph; White’s guitar is laid across the monitor for some frenzied slide on ‘Little Bird’; drummer and crowd take over ‘Seven Nation Army’, and as the gig ends amid Jones’ thunderous drumrolls, so too does the rain.
The Kills join them, the stage now full of players for Lead Belly’s ‘Goodnight, Irene’. The curfew looms over this prophetic sentiment, though, and the PA cuts out leaving just drums, amplifiers and barely audible vocals emanating from the stage as the band play on. White shouts to the crowd that the PA is gone – not that anyone cares – and as the venue quietens, conducts everyone in a final singalong. The rewards are plentiful for those who brave this scaldiest of nights to hear some music, and White’s final unamplified deed manages to shrink the soggy grounds of IMMA down to a bawdy backroom closing session. It’s been a pleasure, soaked through with rock’n’rain.
Jack White photographed by David James Swanson.