February 8, 2015

Confessions of a Jack White junkie, part 12: The addiction comes full circle

A couple of songs into the show in Columbus, Ohio and all I thought I would have to say about it was that there are too goddamned many tall people in this world. It was like Radio City on the Blunderbuss tour all over again, unable to become immersed in what was happening because I had to crane my neck and jockey around just to catch glimpses of it. But then I noticed that there were several empty seats in the row behind me, so I climbed over the chairs and found myself raised ever so slightly above the sea of heads with a fairly good view of center stage, except for every time the massively tall bald guy two rows down leaned over to talk to his friends around him and make out with his girlfriend, which went on through the entire. damned. show. But at least I was able to dance around with a lot more space than I normally have on the rail. 

But it just wasn't the same. I was close enough to see when Jack smiled, which, like the last few nights, was pretty damned frequently, but not close enough to take in the full impact of his energy. I began mentally kicking myself in the ass over delaying my flight so I could sleep after the Madison Square Garden show the night before and not stand all day in the cold again. I was so exhausted after the Garden show. The cold had taken so much out of me, both the weather and the sickness I'd been fighting all week. But I knew what I was missing down there at the front, I knew the adrenalin rush of being right there in the maelstrom would have erased all the shivering and aching for at least a couple of hours. But could my body physically have done it without collapse, could I have gone from Austin to Nashville to New York to yet another day of standing in freezing temperatures with basically zero hours of sleep? I don't know. I'll never know. I'm not even sure I would have arrived in Ohio early enough to have been able to get on the rail at all, though a couple of friends who arrived later than I would have did make it despite the number of people in line ahead of them. So I can either continue kicking myself periodically over giving up the chance to be up close and connected at a show at which Jack was talkative and playful and more spontaneous than he'd been in Nashville or New York, or I can be stoic about it and mature (heaven forbid) enough to accept that my body needed a break. Can the junkie handle that? Does she have a choice?

Most of the highlights of the show were early on-- When Jack mentioned leading into Hotel Yorba that members of the Southwest Syndicate were in attendance at the show, but nobody in the audience would know who they are, I had to yell out "I know who they are!" because it brought back a particular moment downstairs in the Grand Ballroom after the Masonic Temple show. And then there was Jack calling out his techs Josh and Abraham to the front of the stage so that he could give them very specific directions to bring him a drink in "a clear glass so everyone can see it" and in that glass he wanted Coca-Cola, Red Bull, something I couldn't hear, Kahlua, pineapple juice, vodka, a few more things I couldn't hear and/or just don't remember and, finally, tap water, but it had to be Ohio tap water. This little episode reminded me of the hunt for a stool that was the proper representation of the form in Miami. And then, as a lead in to You Know That I Know, Jack told the story behind how he came to write that song with Hank Williams, which included a fairly hilarious Bob Dylan impersonation and the fact that Jack apparently didn't know he'd been weeding poison ivy from around his irises--

The re-cap of the ingredients in the drink here doesn't include a couple in his original request, like the pineapple juice.
I'd love to hear from the first person who tests this concoction.

Then there was the Cannon/Sixteen Saltines/Pipeline/Cannon medley that had me jumping like a fool and screaming as much as laryngitis would allow. Moments of spontaneity that made me kick myself a little more for not seeing how far I could push my physical limits.

The pace slowed down a bit just after the beginning of the encore as Jack told another story at the beginning of Three Women, and I found myself slowing along with it. Detachment began to set in. When I saw Jack motioning for Abraham to bring out the Kay, I actually felt relief. But he tricked us like he did at Nashville, he wasn't ready to end things after all and instead treated us to a snippet of Let's Build a Home and most of Suzy Lee. 

Then he handed the Kay back and launched into a handful more songs, including a one-two punch of Black Bat Licorice into Broken Boy Soldier that should have had me bouncing off the ceiling. I felt some of my usual excitement over those two songs, but it was accompanied by that feeling of disconnection from being so far away and having assholes block my view. When he motioned for the Kay again, finally, I was glad for it. It was time. I never thought I'd ever catch myself thinking that.

And by the time I arrived back home in D.C. the next morning, I was wallowing deeply, wondering where the hell the junkie had been when I needed her, when I needed to be irrational and driven. This was a show that would have left me euphoric if I'd been in my usual place up front, but that instead left me feeling a little hollow despite how hard I tried to get into it up in the seats. It certainly wasn't Jack's fault, what he was doing on that stage was magical and I knew it. I can only blame myself for a decision that's left me feeling intense remorse, even though I know full well there was no guarantee I would have made it to the rail even if I hadn't made that decision. 

And now, like after Miami, the roller-coaster ride is at an end for the foreseeable future. My friends Sam, Helen, and Angelina went on to the last three shows of this leg and I spent those few days fighting to not return to the bitter, jealous state I began this ride in back early last summer.  Upon reading Helen's one-sentence review of the show in Oklahoma, and again after the next night in Albuquerque when she mentioned that he played Never Far Away, a song I love not only because it's beautiful but because it so perfectly encapsulates the story of one of my favorite books, my eyes filled up with tears and I felt a physical pang in my heart and before you start rolling your eyes at me let me assure you that I fully realize just how ridiculous that sounds.  I'm not so far gone that I can't stand back and see that all of this comes across like an over-aged teeny-bopper whining about first-world fan-girl problems. But knowing that doesn't help to control the feelings.  When I hear about the shows I've missed, the visceral reaction erupts before conscious, rational thought even has a chance to form. It's so easy to jump to the conclusion that what you've missed was better, more exciting and more surprising, than the experiences that you've had. And then the battle begins between the fan-girl junkie and my more rational, adult side. Those battles ain't pretty, lemme tell you, 'cause the junkie fights dirty and has ammunition in the form of photos and videos and show reviews aaaaalll over the internet. And I know I'm not alone in going through these withdrawal symptoms. I've had many conversations over the course of this tour with the friends I went to all these shows with and they've experienced it, too.  One of them was warned by her mother that it seemed her "decision making was weak or compromised".  Another has brought her credit cards to the limit to get to shows.  It truly is an addiction. But unlike drugs or alcohol that can be explained by a physical dependency, this is more like gambling or some other craving that's based in the most illogical reaches of the brain. Sometimes I feel that if I could just figure out what the hell it is about this man and his music that has this affect on all of us, then I'd be able to figure out some way to build up an immunity to it. But the things that move us emotionally just aren't based on rational causes and can't always be understood. So sometimes we suffer for them in between the moments of bliss.

Jack's touring South America in March, then playing the Coachella festival and a show in Honolulu in April, then that might very well be it for the Lazaretto tour.  Fucking shame my ride had to end with a whimper instead of delighted, giddy screaming. Moral of the story, kiddies-- Sometimes you really should rouse up your inner junkie and let it push you, even if it might  compromise your health or otherwise screw things up. The high can be so worth it, and you have to try to make it happen.

Come back soon, Jack. The junkie and I both need more of that good aural first aid.

Here's where it all began.

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