A stealthy performance from a particular high-energy guitarist was just what the doctor ordered for a handful of lucky London music enthusiasts. The rock and rollers had gotten a summer fever it seems and the only cure was more Jack White.
The frenetic bluesman’s July 3 mystery novella – make that press release – read like a gloriously offbeat one-act play. And given White’s unorthodox collaboration with innovative British theatre group Punchdrunk, it made perfect, peculiar sense.
The unconventional allies “conspired” at midnight on July 2 to put on a furtive show in the basement of a vacant block of offices that Punchdrunk had temporarily transformed into the “Vescovo & Co Clinic for contagious diseases,” fully staffed with appropriate “medical personnel.” The one-off gig was a brilliant play on White’s recently released album, Lazaretto, literally a “quarantine station for maritime travelers.”
Patients – fans rather – were invited to participate in an intricate online scavenger hunt beginning with a fake medical infomercial offering obscure clues pointing to the fictitious clinic. Of the thousands of fans that participated in the online “contagious disease screening,” only a fortunate few received a telephone call inviting them to an after-hours “appointment” at the clinic. Their reward? A blue medical gown and an exhaustive battery of treatments and tests – or so it seemed.
Just as the earsplitting confusion for the 100-strong crowd reached a fever pitch – pun intended – the master blaster appeared with his crack band to reel off a frenzied, short-but-sweet set of tunes from the new record, including the title tune, the incendiary “High Ball Stepper,” “Sixteen Saltines” and appropriately, “St. James Infirmary Blues.” White polished off the 30-minute mini-concert with a pair of White Stripes gems, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “Icky Thump” – after which the brilliant axeman convulsed to the ground before being stretchered off to a waiting ambulance. A bad case of the blues perhaps?
In case any of you were wondering, it isn’t the first time that the inventive rock star has played a peculiar gig. During the White Stripes’ 2007 Canadian summer tour, the band played a string of quirky side gigs, including a bowling alley in Saskatoon, a flour mill in Ontario, a senior citizens’ center in Nunavut and a “show” in New Brunswick that lasted for a single note (supposedly an E). And less than six hours before White’s 2012 Red Rocks Amphitheatre set in Colorado, he played a spontaneous 20-minute concert for 300 delirious fans at a Denver gas station.
All the world loves a rock star that doesn’t take himself too seriously. Stay tuned for the announcement of the second stop on Dr. White’s World Sanatorium Expedition.