A very good day turned into an extraordinary Friday night for Jack White.
To a surprised roar from a packed audience at the Masonic Temple Theater, White culminated his comeback show in Detroit by proposing to his girlfriend, musician Olivia Jean.
Returning for the show’s ostensible encore five minutes later, White and Jean had another jubilant jolt for the crowd, marrying in an onstage wedding ceremony presided over by Third Man’s Ben Swank. Their respective bass players were best man and maid of honor, while members of their families, including White’s mother, Theresa Gillis, were there.
In a long history of memorable Jack White shows in Detroit — stretching back more than two decades to his White Stripes years — this one has unexpectedly found himself near the top. It kicked off White’s Supply Chain Issues tour and was to be a standard party return for the entertainer at the Masonic, his favorite hometown.
But when he invited Olivia Jean onstage to join in a performance 80 minutes into the set, the show instantly became a local legend. The raven-haired singer-songwriter — born Olivia Jean Markel and raised in Detroit — was introduced by White as his girlfriend.
“And I like it a lot,” White said of Olivia Jean, a member of her label’s Black Belles trio. After performing an opening set before White Friday’s show, she joined her beau and his band on the thrilling “Hotel Yorba.”
And then, before the lyrics of the song “Let’s get married” in the third verse, something seemed to be brewing. White walked to the side of the stage, motioning for his assistant Lalo Medina to start filming on his cell phone. The music dropped.
“I have a question for you,” White told Olivia Jean. “Would you marry me?”
White pulled out a ring for the overwhelmed Olivia Jean, who signaled a gushing yes. Her face streaked with tears, she helped finish the number before White carried her offstage to the sound of guitar feedback.
The Masonic crowd, knowing that they had just witnessed something special, awaited the invariable reminder of the spectacle. It came – but now with another surprise in store.
Swank, a co-founder of Third Man, performed an unexpected wedding ceremony as the couple took their vows.
The marriage is White’s third: White Stripes teammate Meg White was his wife from 1996 to 2000, while he was married to English model Karen Elson from 2005 to 2013.
Friday’s gig was the first of two Masonic shows for White as he kicked off his Supply Chain Issues tour and marked the release of “Fear of the Dawn,” one of two new albums from him this year.
It came hours after he donned a Detroit Tigers jersey to perform an instrumental version of the national anthem at Comerica Park ahead of the team’s season opener with the Chicago White Sox.
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At The Masonic — before the nuptials took center stage — it was a happy, upbeat set from White, sprinkling in material from his assorted band projects.
The show included concert debuts for several songs: “Taking Me Back” and “Fear of the Dawn” from the new album opened the evening in a thick, propulsive duet, while “Love Is Selfish” from July’s upcoming album ” Entering Heaven Alive” followed a few issues later.
A simmering cover of U2’s 1991 song “Love Is Blindness,” halfway through the show with keyboard practice from Quincy McCrary, also made its very first appearance in White’s live repertoire.
McCrary, drummer Daru Jones and bassist Dominic Davis made a tight and skinny combo with White, while a masked mannequin in the back was a souvenir of the moment.
Indeed, it was the biggest Detroit-centric gig since the pandemic began, and it was White’s first solo show since visiting Little Caesars Arena in 2018.
The Mason has long been close to White’s heart: his mother was once a bailiff at the site, and in 2013 he privately helped settle a $152,000 tax bill to prevent the building from being seized. A side theater now bears his name.
He rose to the occasion on Friday in the main lobby, including the most comprehensive video and lighting displays he’s taken on the road to date. It was a night baked in blue, from White’s recently dyed hair to his guitar cables.
Running through a 15-song set featuring numbers from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and Dead Weather, White delivered his dependable blend of dynamic push-and-pull, leading the band into explosive moments of musical transcendence.
Ahead of The Stripes’ “We’re Going to Be Friends,” White dedicated the song to his mother, whom McCrary had entertained backstage by playing the old jazz tune “Sweet Lorraine,” White said.
And Meg White got a dedication via The Stripes’ “Ball and Biscuit,” a gloriously gnarled piece of vintage 2003 Detroit blues that’s menacing and ecstatic all at once.
“I love you so much, Detroit,” Jack White told the crowd before launching into the “Seven Nation Army” closing night.
Minutes earlier, he kicked off the post-wedding encore with The Raconteurs’ “Steady as She Goes” and its timely opening line: “Get yourself a girl and settle down.”
Contact Detroit Free Press Music Writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or [email protected]