Dead-on: Jack White's latest band, the Dead Weather, storms the Vic stage

July 29, 2009


Where lesser mortals would be daunted at the task of driving one mighty hellhound-on-your-trail rock band, Jack White now propels three.

There are the White Stripes, of course, which White followed several years into their platinum-selling career with his first side project, the Raconteurs. But as he proved Tuesday night when his newest busman's holiday the Dead Weather made its Chicago debut at the Vic Theatre, his desire to howl at the moon, literally and metaphorically, remains undiminished, as does the potency he brings to the proceedings.

Make no mistake: While the Dead Weather was clearly a tight-knit collaboration with Alison Mosshart of the Kills on vocals, Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs on bass and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age on keyboards and guitar, it was White's love for and knowledge of the dirtiest, sexiest, most dangerous kind of grunge-infected blues that informed every note the new group played.

White spent almost the entire set behind the drums, the instrument he played in the first group that won him national attention, Goober and the Peas, and which he attacks much like his ex-wife Meg: simply but powerfully. He only claimed the spotlight and the lead vocal role a few times, most notably on a killer cover of ''You Just Can't Win'' by Van Morrison's first band, Them, and the nonsensical but effective original ''I Cut Like a Buffalo'' from the Dead Weather's debut album, ''Horehound.''

White also grabbed the guitar during a haunting duet with Mosshart on ''Will There Be Enough Water?,'' which ended the set proper before a well-deserved encore.

Otherwise, center stage solely belonged to Mosshart, who possessed it as a sexy/scary woman on the verge of an unstoppable libidinous rampage or violent bloody murder -- it was hard to tell which. She stood atop or draped herself over the monitors, she pranced and stalked, and she dropped to her knees, howling all the while through standout tracks such as ''60 Feet Tall,'' ''Hang You From The Heavens'' and ''So Far From Your Weapon.''

Even before the Raconteurs' disappointing second album, that group felt more like a detour than a destination. Not so the Dead Weather, which, if it continues to evolve and White doesn't lose interest, could well eclipse the White Stripes.

In a rare example of an opening band being every bit as awesome as the headliner, New Jersey trio Screaming Females provided ample evidence it was more than ready for the sudden leap it recently made from tiny, underground all-ages clubs to sold-out theaters as the Dead Weather's hand-picked support.

As massive a sonic presence on guitars and vocals as she is physically diminutive, Marissa Paternoster brought to mind Bob Mould at his scariest with a touch of heavy-metal shred thrown in, while bassist Mike Rickenbacker and drummer Jarret Dougherty completed the Husker Du-like assault with tunes from their recent third album, the aptly titled ''Power Move.''