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Jack White is a musical chemist. He's taken rock, blues, folk and indie rock, combined the pieces and distilled something new with a classic sound.
On Monday night in Omaha, White and his band, Los Buzzardos, played songs from his solo album, “Blunderbuss,” as well as tunes by the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. They also threw in folk standards such as “Goodnight, Irene,” which fit the feel of the show.
White is lauded as a guitar player, and for good reason. He channels an old-school playing style that takes from guitarists such as Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page and Muddy Waters. He creates sonic shapes with his guitar that screech, howl, rip and buzz through riffs, melodies and solos.
The day after he headlined Lollapalooza and played to tens of thousands of people, White gave a sold-out performance in the 2,315-seat Omaha Music Hall.
Those thousands greeted White with applause and screams of joy when he took the Omaha stage to play The White Stripes' “Hello Operator” to kick off the nearly two-hour concert.
“You wide awake out there?” White asked. “It's my first trip to Nebraska, and this is the second show I've played in Nebraska. That's a little riddle for you. I dunno if I can solve it myself.”
To solve the riddle, one need only look back to Monday afternoon, when White played his first-ever Nebraska show in front of about 100 fans at Hollywood Candy in the Old Market.
White's record label posted an item on Twitter about a surprise concert, and within half an hour, the store was flooded with hundreds of people and a line wound through the aisles.
Casey Boyd, 32, traveled from Moline, Ill., to see White's performance at the Music Hall and also caught the surprise show.
“We were about to get in line when we heard about it on Twitter, so we rushed over,” she said.
The store's tiny movie theater played host to White and his six-member, all-female band, the Peacocks, as they played six songs: the White Stripes' “Hotel Yorba” and White's “Love Interruption” and “Hypocritical Kiss,” as well as the White Stripes' “The Same Boy You've Always Known,” “Ball and Biscuit” and their cover of Hank Williams' “Tennessee Border.”
Many pulled out phones and snapped pictures and captured video of the show.
Inside the hot theater, fans danced during the song's long guitar jam. When White and his band were finished, they screamed for more, but he had little to say.
“All right!” he said before he walked out. “Thank y'all.”
Hollywood Candy staff members said the surprise show came together only hours before it began. About 2 p.m., band representatives popped into the store and told them that White wanted to do a show there. White's crew members asked other downtown locations for permission to play but were turned down.
At the Music Hall, White had almost a different persona. He smiled and wasn't shy. He threw himself around the stage instead of standing still. He was dressed up in a shirt, tie and vest instead of jeans and a black T-shirt.
Much of the set included material from White's excellent solo album, “Blunderbuss,” including the title track, “Hypocritical Kiss,” “Trash Tongue Talker” and “Freedom at 21.”
The rest of the set was mostly jams from the White Stripes including “Hotel Yorba,” “We're Going to Be Friends” and “I'm Slowly Turning Into You.”
White also played the Dead Weather's “I Cut Like a Buffalo,” the Raconteurs' “Top Yourself” and “Steady, as She Goes” as well as his version of Hank Williams' “You Know That I Know.”
The audience knew almost every song, and White often took a step back and let the crowd sing along, such as on the “Hotel Yorba” line “I'm gonna do what I please.”
What I didn't like so much were the full-band jam sessions that took place at the end of nearly every song. Sometimes I couldn't tell when one song had ended and another began.
While Los Buzzardos are an extremely talented and tight group, White led them through breakdowns and different arrangements that seemed to please only him. When he went into one of these modes, the crowd downshifted from its bouncy and boisterous mood into a calm, stagnant, standing audience.
White's encore — with one small exception — was the best part of the concert.
After a short break, the band returned to the stage with a staccato, melodic “Steady, as She Goes” and then careened into “Freedom at 21.”
They turned up the distortion and made the theater feel like a punk rock show with the aggressive “Sixteen Saltines.”
The next song dragged on forever as White screwed around on his guitar between each verse, but he went on to play the crowd favorite, “Seven Nation Army,” as the audience screamed and sang along.
The closer was “Goodnight, Irene.”
“God bless you, Nebraska,” White said at the end. “Thanks for making my first time here so nice.”
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