Well, one concert down and one more to go! Last night the White Stripes played to a packed-like-sardines audience at the Cunard Centre. I’m in Glace Bay getting ready for tonight’s classic-in-the-making tenth anniversary show, and just read on the band’s message board that there will not be a secret show in Glace Bay (the band only wants to do one show today). This spare time means that I’ve been able to put together a review of last night’s action – enjoy!
The buzzword phrase in my office this past week has been “explosive force.” The term comes from a physiotherapist’s description of an injury suffered by one of our office softball team’s best players. At this past Monday’s game, seeing a fly ball within reach, he started to run towards the ball and tore a calf muscle. The physiotherapist explained to him that these sorts of injuries happen when someone moves quickly with “explosive force.”
There really isn’t a better way to describe the way in which the White Stripes take the stage, or the way in which Jack and Meg White spent the following two hours. With Jack wearing a kilt and Meg a Scottish balmoral cap, they had won over the ultra-capacity crowd of approximately 4,000 before even playing a note. But when those first notes hit – the opening chords of “When I Hear My Name,” from their self-titled debut record – the room hit the roof and had no intention of coming back down again (well…at least the part of the room directly where I was standing…other parts of the crowd were nowhere near as ‘into’ the show at times as they should have been given the circumstances – but they picked up for the encore, which we’ll get to in a bit).
The success of the White Stripes as a live entity depends on two factors: the interplay between Jack and Meg and making two people sound like an army. On the former point, the band’s stage setup provides Jack with five different microphones to work with, one of which is right in front of Meg’s drum kit. Some of the band’s best moments are when Jack stops singing to the crowd and turns right to Meg, playing as if there’s no one else in the room. The chemistry is nothing short of electric.
But it’s the sound – my god, the SOUND – that is the band’s biggest asset. On the one hand you have Jack, who makes his one guitar sound like the world’s loudest, heaviest six-string. Seeing the band live makes a strong case for Jack being considered as one of the best guitarists of his generation – polished and yet raw, spontaneous but not sloppy, simply explosive.
But don’t discount Meg either. Meg often gets shit on for her “poor” drumming, but that’s only because she’s not showy or flashy in the slightest. In her simplicity lies one of the band’s best assets – a sense of ongoing, driving force, played with air-tight rhythm. Meg’s so consistent on the skins that one would be forgiven for mistaking her for some sort of robot – a pretty, smiling robot.
Meg also gets to claim one of the main set’s highlights – her standalone version of “In the Cold, Cold Night.” Jack ceded the spotlight to his “sister” as she took centre stage to sing the ballad, a perfect change of pace in the middle of the show. The main set featured a couple of the band’s biggest hits – “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Icky Thump,” “Hotel Yorba” – but by and large it was full of the band’s blues-influenced album tracks. Instead of pimping the new album like most bands do when they tour, the Stripes pulled equally from everything in their back catalogue, with a significant number of songs dating back to their very first album. Given that it was Halifax’s first Stripes show, it was good of the band to allow us to play catch-up.
The biggest hits were saved for the encore, an eight-song series of one Stripes classic after another. Five of their most popular singles – including a highlight-of-the-night singalong on “We Are Going to be Friends” – a stand-out from the latest album, a back-catalogue gem (“Apple Blossom,” a strong contender for my favourite Stripes song ever) and ending with the band’s cover of “Boll Weevil.” Not only do the Stripes know how to put on a show – they know how to send their fans home happy.
Setlist (as best as the Internets can piece it together):
When I Hear My Name
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Effect & Cause
I’m Slowly Turning Into You
I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart
In the Cold, Cold Night
Wasting My Time
The Union Forever
I’m a Martyr for my Love for You
Jack the Ripper
The Denial Twist
Fell In Love With A Girl
We Are Going to be Friends
Catch Hell Blues
Seven Nation Army
For your viewing pleasure, here’s a collection of photos of the Stripes and solidly-impressive opener Dan Sartain taken by my brother and talented amateur photographer Myles.
Edit: A ton of videos of the show have also appeared on good ol’ YouTube. I’ve included a couple here, but there’s lots more where they came from.