Most touring rock musicians have predefined set lists for their concerts, which makes life a little easier for the tour’s creative producer in terms of planning art direction, scenography, lighting and projections. Jack White, on the other hand, navigates his way through a catalog of over 100 songs in concert, which could easily trigger migrations for a creative producer not knowing what tune to expect at any moment.
Regardless, Montrealer Matthieu Larivée and his Lüz Studio team have long since come to terms with White’s free-form ways, having handled his 2018 Boarding House Reach Tour and, currently, his Supply Chain Issues Tour, which hits Place Bell on Saturday, not to Mention White’s road shows with the Raconteurs. Or so they had thought.
Nothing prepared them for White’s tour debut in Detroit on Friday. Unbeknownst to just about everyone, White, a Detroit native, decided to propose to his girlfriend Olivia Jean, a singer and his opening act, about 80 minutes into his set — in the middle of the song Hotel Yorba. After White retrieved his mother from him from the audience, he and Jean were married on stage a little later during an encore.
“Nobody — not his crew or managers or closest friends — had a clue this was coming,” Larivée said in a phone interview. “The audience had no idea what was going on. We were all completely taken by surprise.”
It’s one thing to take a spontaneous approach to doing atmospherics on a White show without knowing in advance what’s coming. But Larivée and his team did not have wedding-themed effects to beam on stage for this occasion.
“It can be a challenge working with Jack, but it keeps us on our toes and keeps us sharp. Even within a song, he can stop and jump into another song, putting down his guitar and moving on to his piano. It can be quite dramatic,” Larivée said. “The first time we worked with him, we took the approach that we would do a bunch of predefined visuals and lighting images, and if he did a certain song, we’d go with that. And if not, we’d improvise. But what we were doing was really just reacting.
“As a designer, it’s usually great, because you can immerse yourself for three or four months into the creation process and then come up with a package for most tours. Then you can let it go to the tour crew. But not with Jack. So for this tour, we changed the approach and decided to go with blocks of esthetics, which he signed off on. So regardless of what Jack plays, we go with our own show flows, and then we stick to it. We have our own progression. We create that arc, and Jack plays within those boundaries. So visually there’s a show flow that works and musically he can improvise within his own world.”
In the 17 years since he started Lüz Studio, Larivée, its creative director, has been lighting up stages with all manner of visuals and effects for the likes of Billy Idol, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Half Moon Run, Roch Voisine, Jason Aldean and Weezer. But White stands apart from the rest of the bunch, and not just in terms of his hard-driving musical approach.
White is an analog man in a digital world. He doesn’t even own a cellphone.
“We’ve developed a high-tech way of working with Jack, which is funny because Jack is very much the opposite of high-tech. Everything is analog. … His audio consoles are still analog. The way we work is very digital. We even use AI. But when you see his show from him, you do not see that.
The Supply Chain Issues Tour will take White throughout North America, South America, Europe and Japan, among other parts of the planet, before wrapping in the fall.
“That’s also part of the challenge with Jack,” Larivée noted. “On top of no set lists, he mixes it up with venues, sometimes doing theaters as well as arenas. But the set has to be scalable. And always blue.” Like White’s hair now.
Larivée didn’t have any inside contacts when he first decided to spread his company’s wings beyond our borders.
“I just went to LA and knocked on doors, showing what we could do. Name-dropping back then was not a cool thing to do, not that they would even have known who we worked with here.”
Monotone, the music management company handling White, had another act on its roster, the alt-rock band Broken Bells, whose manager was struck by Lüz Studio’s work and opted in. And the rest just fell into place.
“The beauty of this business is there is never a dull moment. Anything can happen at any time. After the wedding, it’s hard to imagine how Jack could top that. … But you never know.”
AT A GLANCE
Jack White’s Supply Chain Issues Tour stops at Place Bell in Laval on Saturday, April 16 at 8 pm This is a no-phones show. Tickets: evenko.ca.
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