When Jack White announced—between his two headlining Coachella performances—that he’d embark on a short acoustic tour of the five U.S. states he had yet to play (and before “taking a break from performing live for a long period of time”), I knew I’d soon be making a trip to my home state of North Dakota. And after the South Dakota show was announced on Friday, I decided to drive three-and-a-half hours west on I-94, hoping that Jack White would perform before I had to be at work on Monday morning. I was fascinated and thirsty for the experience.
And it was certainly an experience.
My parents—who were unfamiliar with Jack White until I mentioned the possibility of a Fargo performance—fully supported my decision to wait a solid five hours in line to purchase concert tickets. Growing up with the Internet, waiting in line for tickets was new for me but all too familiar to my mom and dad and any music fan from back in the day. By the time my boyfriend and I rolled into downtown Fargo at 8 a.m. Sunday (when the show was officially announced) there were already hundreds of fans sitting lawn chairs wrapped around the block. When the promoter did a head count later that hour, it was confirmed: we would be among the 700 ticket holders (wristband wearers) seeing Jack White perform at the Fargo Theater that night.
The music of Bob Wills coming out of a mic’d cassette-tape player on stage kept fans company as they filed into the venue. Also on stage was an assortment of antiques that were more than likely pulled from the theater’s storage room: an old spotlight, reels, flags, etc. – all arranging a perfect set for the Tidal live stream. What was not on stage was also interesting: no monitors and no direct inputs, and just one mic for each instrument – not common practice for acoustic shows nowadays.
Ten minutes before showtime, a man (a “Third Man” if you will), popped on stage to a standing ovation. “You do know I’m not Jack White, right?” He encouraged the audience to “be present tonight” and that photos would be available on Third Man Records’ website either later that night or the next day, “depending on how drunk we get.” The crowd roared and roared again as Jack White and his three bandmates graced the stage.
“I’ve been a couple of blocks away before in Moorhead,” said White (the White Stripes played at Ralph’s Bar in 2000, a performance that was released 11 years later on DVD titled Under Moorhead Lights All Fargo Night). “But I’m in the big N-D now!”
Jack White started his set in the alcohol-free Fargo Theater with “Just One Drink” (do they sell gasoline?) and ripped right into “Temporary Ground.” Mid-song, the house-left PA went out. Still, the crowd was pleased when he introduced “Hotel Yorba” and played another two songs before the system came back on. The last verse of “Alone in My Home” was particularly tender and perfectly boomed at the end, which was then matched with one of the loudest applauses of the night and contrasted with a dead silent crowd during the White Stripes’ “Do.”
Jack rewarded the very attentive crowd (and live streamers) with a rarity. The only other time White has played “Inaccessible Love” live was in Boise, Idaho, on the second date of his five-stop acoustic tour. “I recorded this but it didn’t fit with any albums,” said White. “It’s an orphan song.” White then got a little playful, telling a few jokes, which in turn encouraged everyone to sing along to “We’re Going to Be Friends,” one of the most charming performances of the night.
As the main set came to a close with the Raconteurs’ “Carolina Drama,” the audience stood from their seats and clapped for a solid three minutes before Jack White emerged again, a relatively long period of time by today’s encore standards. He performed his only solo song of the night, “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” off 2001’s White Blood Cells. “I probably should have written this on acoustic guitar,” White explained, “But I was recording electric at that time.”
White sounded most vulnerable during “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket,” another White Stripes pick, off Elephant (2003), but quickly lifted spirits before closing with one of his favorites by Lead Belly. White stepped forward on stage to sing the last verse a cappella with the audience. “Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight / Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene / I’ll see you in my dreams.”
“Music is sacred. Can I get an Amen?” asked Jack. We all shouted “Amen!” in unison.
“Just One Drink”
“Hotel Yorba” (The White Stripes)
“Alone in My Home”
“Do” (The White Stripes)
“We’re Going to Be Friends” (The White Stripes)
“A Martyr for My Love for You” (The White Stripes)
“Carolina Drama” (The Raconteurs)
“The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” (The White Stripes)
“You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket” (The White Stripes)
“Goodnight, Irene” (Lead Belly cover)