Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 30, 2011
White DenimLive at Third Man (Third Man Records)
Produced by Jack White for his Third Man Records in Nashville, Tenn., the 11-song, vinyl-only Live at Third Man will be packaged hopefully one day into the deluxe version of White Denim's latest knockout, May full-length D. Nine of its tunes come from the local quartet's new disc, an endlessly engaging jigsaw puzzle of subtleties – Who-like R&B played with the easy finesse of the Grateful Dead. Side one injects "Say What You Want" from 2009 transition Fits into the otherwise straight running order of the first half of D, as singer James Petralli loosens both larynx and knuckles, the latter on his six-string interplay with the onetime trio's newest member, guitarist Austin Jenkins. There's positively Garcia/Weir interplay on "Burnished," faithful to its studio counterpart only with all the added excitement of live White Denim, a progressive rock band always on the brink of an exhilarating jam. Petralli's fiery delivery amps up as his deceptively "burnished" voice rises to meet the radioactive near-instability of the group's dual guitar whisperers (touches of Allman joy), who then navigate the invisible segues of D's "At the Farm" into "Say What You Want." And once the chicken shack's burnt to dirt, ballad "Street Joy," some of 2011's most affecting soul, lulls until it crashes in a way the album version never does. The math jitters of side-one stopper "Anvil Everything" make it sound like the record's skipping, the frontman's vox freaky-watery. The flip side opens atop Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters' bus on "Drug," guitar tones pinging like some open-air Euro date from the mid 1970s. The stutter step of "Bess St.," twisted inside-out by the rhythm section of bassist Steve Terebecki and drummer Josh Block, plows both torpedoes straight into the side of the titanic R&B "Shake Shake Shake," from 2008 LP Exposion. The tide finally washes in a closing couplet off D for divine, the rhythmic shake-'n'-bake of agitated soother "River To Consider," whose soaring solo coulda/shoulda/woulda taken up its own whole side, and clanging, banging ender "Is and Is and Is." White heat.