Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Dead Weather at the Wiltern, August 25th, 2009

Well, I think they've even admitted that the Pope isn’t infallible, so I guess Jack White doesn't have to be either. I just find it odd that the man who was saying how he hates things that are fake and rehearsed somehow ended up in a band with one of the most rehearsed and affected people I've ever seen. I'm talking, of course, about Alison Mosshart, lead singer of the Kills and the Dead Weather. Maybe she's cool off-stage, but onstage she's like a flipbook of Patti Smith's, Janis Joplin's, and Chrissie Hynde's greatest onstage moments, i.e. the fakest fake that ever faked. Faker than William Shatner's hair. Faker than Pamela Anderson's breasts. Faker than a Tofucken (a turducken made of a tofu chicken inside a tofu duck inside a tofurkey).

The only explanation is that she's a succubus, an evil hipster succubus who has somehow bamboozled Jack White (and everyone else) with some of the glitter from her hooha. For her hooha glitter is a dark, intense hooha glitter. Some form of hypnotism had to be involved to make him wear those horrible pointed white boots. See, my problem with Alison Mosshart is that she's a one-legged Barbie. Back when we were kids, my older sister had this Malibu Barbie that she loved, and even when one of the Barbie's legs fell off, she kept insisting that her girl was the prettiest and the hottest and our one Ken doll only wanted to date her. Not only that, one-legged Barbie would also say stupid, fake-sexy things like "Drink... and enjoy" to Ken when she was putting her moves on him, and she'd also do this horrible yelping singing (which coincidentally sometimes sounded like Alison Mosshart) that was supposed to be, I don't know, cool? None of this is making sense, but all I could think about on Tuesday night was that damn one-legged Malibu Barbie.

Mosshart is a pretty compelling performer, if only because her constant movement tends to draw the eye. So much of what she does feels rehearsed, though, self-conscious and affected, like she's ticking her moves off a list of stuff she cribbed from Patti Smith. She always seems very conscious of how she looks, like she's trying to make every movement a picture, which would be great if she were on America's Next Top Model (though with those long hipster bangs, the jury is out on whether or not she can smile with her eyes), but since she's not, it just smacks of effort. I can't help but compare her antics to those of my favorite stage spaz, Cedric Bixler Zavala from the Mars Volta. His freak-outs seem so much more spontaneous and unpretentious, especially because he usually ends up showing his underwear or deep-throating a microphone or looking like he's been sleeping in a fruit dehydrator. Mosshart just seems like a less visually offensive, more rock and/or roll version of Régine Chassagne from the Arcade Fire. I think I'd like her much better if I never saw her live again.

Mosshart's voice ranges from throaty and mellow (like the way whiskey supposedly tastes to people who don't think it's the fermented urine of an untreated diabetic) to croaky and vaguely Swamp Hag-like. Sometimes I expected Cedric Bixler Zavala to pop up, point at Mosshart, and yell, "Do you see? A fingernail choir is making her chalkboard sing!" Still, I prefer Mosshart's voice to most female "rock" singers, and she was downright amazing on the slower, less shouty songs like "So Far From Your Weapon" and "Will There Be Enough Water?" She also does sound quite good with Jack, probably because she can go lower than him when she needs to, rather than having their voices slip and slide messily over each other like a couple of strippers wrestling in oil, as happened with Alica Keys on "Another Way to Die", and because their voices have a similar grittiness and rauchiness to them.

A lot of the Dead Weather's image seems to have to do with rauch and dirtiness, though. Little Jack's hair even seemed a little less shiny and a little more greasy than usual. He was his regular great bassist self, though you have to kind of feel for Little Jack and Dean Fertita -- no one pays them any attention, not even their bandmates. They didn't even make it into the deeply stupid video for "Treat Me LikeYour Mother". Then again, I found Dean Fertita worth ignoring on Tuesday night -- they were recording the concert, and he kept playing to the camera like a goth teenager in a Johnny Ramone costume doing a bad Jim Morrison impersonation. Plus, his weird bowl-cut hair reminds me of a wig they'd put a 40 year-old sitcomactor in so he could play his character in a high-school-in-the-early-80s flashback.

For some reason, Jack White with the Dead Weather isn't the same Jack White as the one in the Raconteurs and the White Stripes. Maybe the Raconteurs!Jack and the White Stripes!Jack are also different and I just never noticed, but Dead Weather!Jack is strikingly different. He's not the same boy we've always known, but we all know he's man enough to bear up to the curse of his own overpowering machismo. For one thing, he's exponentially hotter -- his gorgeousness has taken on a much more obviously sexual dimension, even though his curly mop of hair sometimes makes him look like a Puli. He's thinner than he used to be, and the long-sleeved tight black shirt he was wearing showed off the lovely muscles in his arms, and though I disapprove of skinny jeans in general, these ones cupped his peerless ass (and parts beyond) perfectly. The hideous boots made him look a little like a Camden Leisure Pirate, unfortunately. In contrast to Mosshart, his stage presence is so effortless -- he's eye-catching and fun to watch because of who he is, the innate Jackness of him. You never get the feeling he's cribbing from anyone; he was just born that way.

On a non-shallow note, he's a good drummer. Not Patrick Keeler good, much less Thomas Pridgen (my hero) good, but still good. At first, they had the balance so that his drums were as loud as Thomas Pridgen's, but after the first song, things evened out. Drumming was his first love, so it's kind of sad in a way that he comes alive so much more on guitar in "Will There Be Enough Water". Sad for him, not for us. I was just happy to get some scuttling, which he supplied in the form of the Wind-Up Chattering Teeth scuttle. As usual, his guitar-playing was as awesome and enthralling as his ass. Yes, I have a fetish.

Incidentally for your edification, I thought it was really cool how the band-members could take turns playing different instruments, with LJ taking over drums for Jack, Jack and Mosshart taking guitar for Fertita when he was on keyboards, etc.

Well, that was a lot of complaining about what was actually a great show. The music has grown on me as I've listened to it (especially "I Cut Like a Buffalo", "Will There Be Enough Water?", and "So Far From Your Weapon"), and I'll probably like it even more once I get over the case of the reds I've come down with over the fact that this isn't a new White Stripes album. The lights, though seizure-inducing, were awesome; even though I find it somewhat contrived, they have a very cool image; the band played brilliantly; the music is raunchy and bluesy and something new from Jack**; and he was eye-searingly sexy throughout. What more could I ask for***?

*I'm fully willing to admit that some of my bitchiness about Mosshart stems from jealousy, since I have a hate/envy relationship with hipsters and since she gets to share a microphone with Jack White. The Dead Weather's music isn't indie music, I don't think, but Mosshart strikes me more as a figure from an indie movie. She's like some bad-ass assassin character created by Quentin Tarantino for his fanboys to wank over because she acts like a guy but is a hot chick. On the other hand, I'm softening on her already after reading that she wrote "So Far From Your Weapon". I really like that song.

**I don't have an exact setlist. I'm pretty sure they played almost all the songs on Horehound, two or three covers, and two new songs, one of which was called "Jawbreaker".

***Two thoughts occur: a better opening band and a less moronic crowd. A band called Tyvek opened, and they overstayed their welcome by half an hour. Their music sounded like skiffle as played by lobotomized Sesame Street characters. Also, they looked like a math teacher, an escaped mental patient, and their pubescent kidnapping victim. Escaped mental patient drummer guy was wearing gross pajama bottoms instead of real pants, and I felt like I was being forcibly introduced to his junk. Please, fellas, don't wear pajama pants or sweatpants in public. Ever.

The crowd was enthusiastic, but we had the misfortune of getting stuck next to a group of the type of concert douches who think that it's all about their good time, as if no one else has paid to be there. One stupid cuntrag in particular kept whistling really loudly -- mid-song, no less. It was like being at a show with Boito's Mefistofele (2:03 in the linked clip). If that seems esoteric, you're wrong -- mid-19th century Italian opera isn't a food. Swing and a miss! Anyway, this whistling shit-trumpet forced her way over to where my friend (who'd tried to flee her to escape further ear drum damage) and I were standing and started whistling and bumping into me while dancing. I wanted to give her such a stabbing. She also had rolled up some marijuana and smoked it like a cigarette so everything reeked of skunk. I really don't understand why just seeing a band you like isn't enough for some people.

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