Not many gigs start with the audience being asked to change into hospital gowns and end with the star being carted off in an ambulance – but that was how Jack White's latest secret show in London played out.
White has made a habit of playing unusual, impromptu events in recent years, but nothing could compare to the "immersive" experience he put on in conjunction with London theatrical company Punchdrunk. Fans gained entry by following clues online and registering to be tested for "contagious and infectious diseases." A phone call invited them to a late-night appointment at a fictitious clinic called Vescovo & Co., while a follow-up text message revealed the location as an office block just off the Strand, in central London.
But while fans knew the event was White-related, no one knew exactly what it would consist of. They were greeted by doctors and nurses who asked them to sign a disclaimer form and change into gowns and masks before under-going disorientating psychological tests.
Eventually, after one patient was found to be "infected," the 100-strong audience was ushered into a confined space for "decontamination." As the lights were turned off and dry ice pumped in, some fans seemed close to panic, but that was replaced with delight when White and his band (also clad in scrubs) appeared through the gloom.
The group played a fast and furious set, opening with the title track of White's new album, Lazaretto, and including "High Ball Stepper," "Sixteen Saltines," "St. James Infirmary Blues" alongside White Stripes songs "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and "Icky Thump."
During the latter, White faked some sort of seizure and was stretchered off, as the confused crowd were deposited back on the street, still in their gowns. There, as a finale, an "infected" White was carried from the building and placed in an ambulance, which then drove away – leaving the fans the gift of a personalized "prescription" from "Dr. White."
White is due to play another – presumably more conventional – show at London's Eventim Apollo this evening.