The White Stripes’ Nova Scotia Invasion 2007 comes to an end as the band rocked Glace Bay’s famous Savoy Theatre last night and McNutt Against the Music was there to celebrate the band’s tenth anniversary in style. In our final day of week-long Stripes coverage, here’s my review.
The Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, was built in the 1920s in the design of famed Victorian show houses. Restored in the 1970s as a concert hall, it remains elegant yet simple, classical and yet timeless. Its theatre hall, fittingly, is painted almost entirely red and white. So when the White Stripes were planning their extensive Canadian tour, it’s not surprising that they picked the Savoy to celebrate their tenth anniversary as a band.
The venue was perfect for more than just the décor, though. For one, Jack White’s family roots trace back to Nova Scotia – his grandfather is originally from Sydney Mines (his mother from Antigonish) and he’s a distant relation to some of the Cape Breton Island’s musical royalty, including fiddlers Buddy McMaster, his neice Natalie, and Ashley MacIsaac. Much of their extended Nova Scotia family was in attendance – including Ashley MacIsaac joining Dan Sartain as opening acts – and several other Stripes family members made the journey to Nova Scotia for the special occasion. Fans from as far away as Ohio and California made the trip, standing alongside a local crowd hyped to see a band of the Stripes’ stature right in their neighbourhood.
Add all this together and what do you get? A powder keg for one hell of a party.
And what a party we got.
With the show being filmed for DVD posterity, you might think that the concert would end up a more calculated and staged affair than your traditional Stripes show. The irony is that it was exactly the opposite: it almost made the Halifax concert look like an exercise in over-preparation. The set was filled with random song riffs and teases, multi-part spontaneous medleys, last-second guitar changes and more. The crowd had no idea where Jack and Meg were going to take them next, so we all just buckled in and went along for the ride.
Actually, “buckled in” is a poor choice of words because the capacity crowd never left their feet while the Stripes played. Every single time the band stopped to take a breather to wipe the well-earned sweat off their brows, another roar would come over the crowd, inspiring the Stripes to give ‘em another classic. It was like a perpetual standing ovation in honour of the night’s very special guests.
The stage setup was similar to the Halifax show, only without the walkway in behind. In its place was a giant red curtain on which Jack and Meg’s shadows were projected towering over the stage. It was a really cool effect, but not really needed to make the “siblings” seem larger than life. Everything that was iconic and awesome about the Halifax show – the chemistry between Jack and Meg, the guitar solos, the crowd interaction – was amplified ten-fold in Glace Bay.
With no secret show earlier in the day to detract from their energy, the Stripes attacked the Savoy concert with every ounce of gusto they had in them. At one point near the end of the main set, Jack – who didn’t waste too much breath chatting, choosing to save most of his banter to dole out reflections and thanks towards the end – asked the crowd if it would be okay if they played a little longer than usual. Who were we to say no? Much of the show’s over two-hour length came during the “encore,” which was really more of a second complete set (15 more songs!).
Highlights? Versions of “Jolene” and “One More Cup of Coffee” that were so intense that I thought the chandeliers on the ceiling would shatter. The band breaking out “Aluminum” – maybe their most sonically off-putting song – and making it totally rock. Teasing “Icky Thump” and twisting it into “When I Hear My Name” before giving the crowd the hit single it was waiting for. Putting together an awesome medley combining “Astro,” “Screwdriver” and “Rag and Bone,” only to have it topped during the encore with the pairing of “Finding it Harder to Be a Gentleman,” “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me,” and (hell yes) “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl).” Jack embracing his inner bass player and absolutely destroying “My Doorbell.” And a “Seven Nation Army” singalong that was nothing short of deafening.
The Cape Breton crowd probably was the most enthusiastic for the live rendition of “Prickly Torn, but Sweetly Worn,” for there are few things that get Capers to their feet quicker than a set of bagpipes. One of Jack’s young cousins took to the stage with a set of small pipes while Jack played the mandolin and Meg sat and played a giant bass drum. Reports are that Buddy McMaster – 82 years young – sat for most of the show but never left his feet during this number. The clapping and stomping roaring through the venue was deafening.
But all good things – even good things that last as long as this show – come to an end. Closing with a round of genuine thanks, a rip-roaring rendition of “Boll Weevil” and a bagpipe sendoff complete with both Nova Scotia and Cape Breton flags, the Stripes bid adieu to the Savoy crowd, to the Maritime provinces, and to ten great years of rock and roll. Bring on the DVD!
Setlist (again, as best as the Internets can put it together with a couple of question marks still uncertain…if they get completed I’ll update)
Let’s Shake Hands
Icky Thump (tease) / When I Hear My Name
I’m Slowly Turning Into You
Black Jack Davey (tease) / One More Cup of Coffee
Little Cream Soda (intro) / Wasting My Time
300 mph Torrential Outpour Blues
I Fought Piranhas
Fell in Love With a Girl
Nothing I can Do
Astro / Screwdriver / Rag and Bone / Screwdriver (piano)
Do (or maybe Top Special)
In the Cold, Cold Night
Lord Send Me an Angel
Catch Hell Blues
I’m a Martyr for my Love for You
We are Going to be Friends
I’m Finding it Harder to Be a Gentleman / Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me / You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)
Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
Seven Nation Army
Sadly, the camera policy at the Savoy was pretty strict and wouldn’t allow the nice camera I had brought to get past. So outside of a couple of exterior shots (outside the Savoy, two ambitious ticket seekers and the show’s limited-edition poster), we’ll have to go with mass media photography. The two posted come from the Cape Breton Post (click on the first one to read a short online story), the third from the Chronicle Herald (click on it to read Stephen Cooke’s review). There are also a few videos of the show that have shown up on YouTube. I’m not going to repost any of the song clips – trust me, you’re best just waiting for the DVD – but I will share with you the show finale with Jack and Meg waving the Nova Scotia and Cape Breton flags (and if you REALLY want to see more, you shouldn’t have trouble finding them).
Well, that concludes White Stripes week here at the blog – don’t be surprised if I take a few days off from blogging to recover from the entire exhausting experience. A personal thanks to everyone who’s dropped by to follow the band’s journey through our little province here, and an extra special thanks to Jack and Meg for putting this whole tour together. We Canadians who don’t live in Toronto/Montreal/Vancouver (and in particular those of us in the Maritimes) usually get passed over by bands as popular as you guys, which is why I initially thought you were pulling our leg when you first mentioned a tour of all 10 provinces and three territories. The fact that you actually went through with such an odyssey demonstrates a respect for and commitment to your devoted fans that few other bands can match. I can only hope that we gave you enough cheers, sing-alongs and standing ovations to properly express our appreciation and thanks.
See you soon?
Edit: Rolling Stone’s Bret Gladstone was at the concert, and has posted his review over at the magazine’s RockDaily blog. If you’re looking for some photos kicking around the interwebs, there’s some up on Flickr and over at the Halifax Locals message board.