MONTREUX (Reuters Life!) - Alternative rock supergroup The Dead Weather gave a blistering performance of heavy blues in front of a capacity Montreux Festival crowd in the sweltering Miles Davis Hall.
Anchored on drums by White Stripes frontman Jack White, looking like Johnny Depp in 1995 film ‘Dead Man’ with a feathered black hat sitting atop his shock of dark hair, the performance was in stark contrast to the genteel jazz of Nora Jones, headlining the festival’s main hall upstairs Saturday.
The Dead Weather was formed by White and The Kills’ Alison Mosshart after Mosshart filled in as singer for the White Stripes on a joint-tour of the United States in 2008, when White suffered with chronic bronchitis.
Both musicians played Montreux in 2008, but this was their first appearance together at the festival, in an all-star band of multi-instrumentalists, including The Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence and Queens Of The Stone Age’s Dean Fertita on guitar.
The band, dressed all in black and toting white guitars, jumped on stage amid a battery of noise and glaring white lights before Mosshart, singing in a cool, Elvis drawl, led them on the heavy blues of ‘60 Feet Tall’, the opening track of critically acclaimed debut album “Horehound.”
She then shrieked with a Valkyrian savagery pitched between Patti Smith and Robert Plant for ‘Hang You From The Heavens’ as she rose up onto the frontstage monitor, throwing her black hair backwards with a jerk of her neck as she spat out each phrase.
The band then impressed with their heavy rock take on Van Morrison’s ‘You Just Can’t Win’ before White took lead vocals for the first time on the visceral ‘I Cut You Like A Buffalo’, with Mosshart bashing a tambourine with frightening violence.
They then blasted out tracks like ‘No Horse’, ‘The Difference Between Us’, and ‘Die By The Drop’ from their second album, “Sea of Cowards.”
The album was released this spring, hot on the heels of 2009’s ‘Horehound’ in a flurry of recording activity unusual in an industry increasingly reliant on touring and merchandise as music sales are decimated by illegal downloads.
Mosshart laughed insanely between lines on ‘I’m Mad’, before giving way again to White again on vocals for ‘Hustle and Cuss’, the band exchanging instruments throughout a set that had Mosshart switching to guitar and Fetita to keyboards.
Lawrence moved to drums to allow White to belt out fearless and inventive guitar solos on the first of three encores, ‘Blue Blood Blues’.
White dedicated the second, ‘I Can’t You’, to festival organizer Claude Nobs and Nobs’s dogs, Kiku and Kuki, before the band left the crowd in raptures with the machine-gun paced ‘Treat Me Like Your Mother’.
Editing by Stephanie Nebehay