"Are we in this together, Nashville?" Jack White asked the crowd at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena at the start of a sprawling, surprise-filled concert. The show, part of White's tour in support of new album Lazaretto, was a homecoming for the guitarist, who further reinforced his love of his adopted city by enlisting Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn and Nashville local picker William Tyler as his opening acts.
Following an hour-long set by White and his cut-on-a-dime band, who blazed through favorites like the White Stripes' "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and Lazaretto's title track, the curtains closed for a brief intermission. When they finally reopened, there stood the reunited Raconteurs, White's rock-pop group with Brendan Benson and Jack Lawrence (White's drummer Daru Jones filled in for the departed Patrick Keeler). Performing a two-song set, the Raconteurs lit into "Salute Your Solution" from 2008's Consolers of the Lonely, following it up with the crowd sing-along "Steady as She Goes," off their 2006 debut Broken Boy Soldiers.
As the final notes rang out, White's band retook the stage, along with the Raconteurs, and segued into the moody intro to "Portland, Oregon," the White-Lynn collaboration on the country icon's 2004 comeback album Van Lear Rose, which White produced. Still in her sequined gown, Lynn appeared from the wings to revisit their flirty duet. "Well thank you, Loretta, I'm glad you didn't have nothing better to do tonight," White said. (Watch a video of the performance above.)
"This is the first time me and Jack worked a show together," Lynn remarked earlier. White then told a story of how, when asking Lynn to be his opening act, he also petitioned her to sing a rare track from her very first recording session, "Whispering Sea." Lynn obliged, with White joining in. "The greatest female singer-songwriter of the 20th century," he heralded the Coal Miner's Daughter as Lynn walked off waving.
With both Lynn and the Raconteurs taking their leave, White returned to the frenetic blues-rock that has become his signature, punctuating the remainder of the show with squealing licks. Despite a mid-verse guitar switcheroo, "Ball and Biscuit," from the 2003 White Stripes album Elephant, was mesmerizing, with White working in a cover of Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" (which, at about the exact same time across the street, John Mellencamp was performing at the Ryman Auditorium on the second of a two-night stand).
The requisite "Seven Nation Army" closed out the evening, with White profusely thanking his fellow citizens. "God bless you, Nashville," he said. "It's good to be home."