Jack White certainly knows how to make an entrance.
On the occasion of playing the “Bleacher Theater” configuration of Fenway Park, as White — sporting a curly fauxhawk with long sideburns and sharp blue suit — and each member of the band was announced, they emerged in a cheekily victorious, spotlit run from inside the Green Monster onto the stage set up on top of the right field bullpen.
Whether it was the unique setting — “Well, what a dump we’re playing tonight,” he joked near the top of the set — the cheers of the capacity crowd, or whatever mood the mercurial White was in, he and his ridiculously gifted backing quintet proceeded to play a show for the ages: an epic two-hour-plus affair that was as searing as it was gentle, as crazed as it was controlled, covering White’s tenure in the White Stripes, as well as songs from his solo albums, including the recent “Lazaretto,” a dash of the Raconteurs, and even a tip of the cap to Hank Williams.
While there were some early issues with the mix, White was in prime form, stomping, snarling, shouting, wailing, and setting the bar high from the outset. The high-energy opening of “Just One Drink” was followed by a mammoth take of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” rife with White’s effortless guitar fire, and left no question that he came to rock.
So did his band members, who all put on as engaging a show as their boss. Whatever style White wanted, they gave it to him. Gutbucket playfulness of “Hotel Yorba”? Check, complete with lovely pedal steel filigree from Fats Kaplin and a vocal assist from the crowd. Gorgeous pastoral country? Here’s “Temporary Ground” with its delicate fiddle and acoustic guitar pas de deux between White and fiddler-backing vocalist Lillie Mae Rische, a consistent partner throughout the show. Funky rock with a willowy new wave keyboard vibe? An encore version of the Raconteurs’ “Steady, as She Goes” filled the bill with keyboardist Ikey Owens proving an indispensable ingredient. (Owens got so worked into a froth during the stomp of “Icky Thump” he managed to whip his glasses off his face accidentally.)
White and the band played fast and loose on some tunes careering from tempo to tempo and stretching out climaxes, as if any song could have been the last. Then they were able to stop on a dime during others, including the sweet “We’re Going to Be Friends” or the traditional country of “You Know That I Know,” a lost Hank Williams track played on the occasion of his birthday.
Although he went off on a curious tangent about RollingStone.com for a bit, White kept banter to a minimum, surrendering to the sound in a way that practically made visible his physical and spiritual connection to playing it.Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman