As if leading the White Stripes and Raconteurs and appearing in Davis Guggenheim’s music doc “It Might Get Loud” wasn’t enough, Jack White has convened yet another project, the Dead Weather, which made its L.A. debut at a packed and sweaty Roxy on Wednesday night. The band was previewing its debut album, “Horehound” (due on July 14 on Third Man/Warner Bros.), and warming up for a summer tour. Its gritty, exhilarating hourlong perf suggests White has added another great band to his portfolio.
Playing largely unfamiliar material, the quartet — White on drums, Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Ferlita on guitar and keyboards, the Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence on bass and Alison Mossheart from the Kills on vocals — won over the crowd from the first notes.
The new band’s blues rock hews closer to the Stripes than the more pop-oriented Raconteurs; the Jimmy Page influence hinted at on the last few White Stripes records is more pronounced. The template for more than a few of the songs comes from “Led Zeppelin II.” Bluesy and overheated, the songs are filled with references to drugs and the devil (including a scalding cover of Bob Dylan’s “New Pony”). And while it seems that White may literally be taking a back seat in this project, his touch is evident in the spaciousness of the sound, the cragginess of the riffs, the loose but unerring connection between the musicians and, for this perf at least, a monochrome visual presentation, as everyone wore black and played white instruments.
White proves to be as formidable a drummer as he is a guitarist — he brings the heavy metal thunder, hitting the bass drum with the sludgy power of John Bonham, and he plays roiling circuits on the toms and plays sixteenth notes on the ride cymbals with a surprising delicacy. (Oddly enough, when he picks up the guitar for “Will There Be Enough Water,” his round tone and angular phrasing is more reminiscent of Jeff Beck, Page’s partner in the Yardbirds). Ferlita’s guitar and keyboards grind like a rusty, possessed machine, and in Mossheart, White has a compelling frontwoman. She mixes sexy hauteur with sweaty physicality and a vinegary howl that suits the music perfectly.
It’s a combination that makes the Dead Weather sound less like a star’s side project and, hopefully, the band will continue on as one of Jack White’s continuing explorations of blues and pop.
The Dead Weather play New York’s Terminal 5 on July 17 and return to Los Angeles with a show at the Wiltern Aug. 25.