Review: Jack White at Austin City Limits, and the lady limit

“God Bless Neil Young.”

Jack White didn’t say much during his hour-and-a-half headlining set on Saturday night, but those were his last ones before departing, to probably hop on a golf cart and go watch the rest of Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

White and Young played at opposite ends of Zilker Park during the 2012 Austin City Limits music festival on Saturday night, a truly difficult scheduling quandary during this rock-centered fest. Whereas other major festivals will set up hip-hop versus album rock, or dance stage versus popular reunion, Saturday put rock legend versus growing rock legend up against one another, both starting at the same time, though Crazy Horse played ’til the bitter, bitter (10 p.m.) end of the night.

The Third Man Records man tore through most of his album “Blunderbuss” and cranked out the Raconteurs hit “Steady As She Goes,” plus cuts from multiple eras of the White Stripes catalog including “Slowly Turning Into You,” “Hotel Yorba,” “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “We’re Going to Be Friends.”

It’s on the latter two that White’s genesis from slapdash guitar genius to nimble Everything, Every Time, Man is apparent, as he switched between electric guitar and organ sometimes in the same phrase, and transformed a simple childlike melody into a full-bodied glammy jam.

White has gotten guff before for this kind of behavior — this Serious behavior. When White Stripes records sunk into to psych after three albums of workshopped garage echoes, when his band when from a two piece to a three or four, and now that six-piece full backing band and the crew is synchronized, styled and shined.

Furthermore: there have been complaints that the current backing band The Peacocks is all-female, after an apparent 21st-century eye-opening that novelty could infringe on Serious Art. I say it’d be a problem if White hasn’t spent half his career championing, embracing and nurturing female artists, combining with them or collaborating so that they could stand alone: Loretta Lynn, the Black Belles, Wanda Jackson, Ruby Amanfu, Alicia Keys, Karen Elson, Norah Jones, The White Stripes… Sure, one of ’em females was his (now-ex) wife, another was already his ex. How should this discount at all this current incarnation’s obviously able outfitting: that drummer Carla Azar can be loose and metronomic simultaneously, that Brooke Waggoner’s deadpanning is countered with dancing fingers, that Amanfu’s creaky voice is the Bonnie to White’s Clyde as though they’re getting away with something?

Festivals like ACL have featured all-male headliners all summer with the Red, White, Black and Young brothers (as in, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, the Black Keys and Neil Young) leading the bill in Austin. Female-fronted Metric, Florence + the Machine, Metric, Crystal Castles, Alabama Shakes and Tegan and Sara are still working to get theirs; so what White offers a way to get ladies out of the opening-slot grotto? Everyone on stage may be winking, but the job they’re doing is quite Serious.