It’s only fitting that it was gloomy and rainy on the night of the first ever public performance by music supergroup The Dead Weather. And while the cold clammy weather was bummer for those hovering by the entrance of the Bowery Ballroom in hopes of snagging an extra ticket to the sold out gig, for the lucky folks who made it inside the outlook was positive.
Tonight The Dead Weather showcased a collection of songs that made it apparent that they are all about straight on rock ‘n’ roll–plenty of electric guitar, big resonating bass lines, and thumping drum beats to go around. Layered on top of that were Alison Mosshart‘s snarled vocals, producing a dirty (but somehow not grungy) sound that somehow comes off as being sexy, not sleazy. With seasoned vets Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age on guitar/keyboards, Little Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs and The Greenhorns plucking away on bass, and of course Jack White on drums, guitar, and occasional vocals, it’s not hard to understand how they were able to full off such a feat.
Judging from the pre-show audience chatter it seemed as though the major draw of the night was to see Jack White strut his stuff with his new side project, but as soon as the band came out on stage and started in on the first rock-fueled tune, all eyes were on frontwoman Alison Mosshart.
Known as the female half of the rock duo The Kills, Mosshart is familiar with being in the (shared) spotlight. But where The Kills’s energy comes from the push and pull between Mosshart and her bandmate Jamie Hince, the dynamic of the Dead Weather is hinged upon Mosshart’s role as the ferocious, fearless leader and the rest of the band acting as her dutiful, capable soldiers.
With three outfit changes (skin-tight black leather jacket on; jacket off, revealing a perfectly hanging black tee with the word “SEX” printed on the back paired with pencil-thin black jeans; shrunken blazer with sequins in circle shapes thrown over the shirt), an onstage swagger, and a brazen disregard for the smoking laws in New York City, Mosshart was clearly the star of the evening.
If someone asked you to describe Mosshart’s performance tonight as “smoldering” you wouldn’t be doing her justice. If you described it as “mesmerizing” that would also be an inappropriate response. However, if you simply melted into a puddle at the mere mention of her name, you’d be closer to being on the right track. With cold hard eyes glaring behind a mess of black hair and startling moves previously only seen on a sidewinder, Mosshart epitomized the idea of crazy/sexy/cool–causing the girls in the audience to sigh lustfully and the boys to clam up if they happened to catch her eye.
For those of you wanting to put this newest band in context of the sound and approach of all other bands that can claim Jack White as a founding member let me put it this way: If The White Stripes are youthful, unrefined, and raucous, and The Raconteurs are subtle, subdued, and a bit crunchy, The Dead Weather are sharp, sly, and dangerous.
Although The Dead Weather have a bold sound, it has definitely been carefully refined and restrained for the benefit of the listener–kinda like how the owners of an attack dog will keep him on a leash, not because they’re afraid the dog couldn’t defend himself against you, but more because you probably couldn’t defend yourself against the dog. I would fear for my life if I ever got a chance to hear the practice sessions of The Dead Weather–too much rock for my little brain to process! My head would surely explode.
But of course Jack White did eventually emerge from behind his drum kit for a few choice songs (with Little Jack filling in on the kit) in which he dueted with Mosshart. In one steamy number Jack and Alison shared a microphone as they crooned song lyrics within a centimeter of their lips touching. In general, the songs in which Jack contributed vocals had a softer edge to them, and in his duets with Mosshart, he played the musical straight man to her wild, growling tones.
Brooklyn-based openers Crystal Stilts put on a fine performance with their brand of upbeat tunes tinged with vocal stylings reminiscent of Ian Curtis. Over the course of their set they revealed that they did not have any merchandise to sell because their van got towed, however according to the band if you want to turn up at the impound lot in Rego Park tomorrow around 3pm, you can get a $.25 cent discount off their latest single.
All in all I have to say I was completely blown away with the show–I thought the songs were tremendous and I love the true rock ‘n’ roll sound of this group. I definitely urge you to go see this band live when they start their full tour in June, if tonight’s performance was any indication, you’ll be in for a fantastic night of music.
Take a look at this video of their performance of “Hang You From the Heavens”:
Setlist according to Product Shop NYC (not necessarily in this order):
60 Feet Tall / Hang You from the Heavens / So Far from Your Weapon / Rocking Horse / New Pony / Will There Be Enough Water? / Bone House / I Cut Like a Buffalo / Treat Me Like Your Mother / No Hassle Night / Three Birds