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|The Opera House
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Rock and roll is fickle. Some artists come and go, bands flash in the pan, and others fizzle. Some get drowned
by hype, some overcome it, and some never really get their due at all.
The White Stripes are beyond three-word labels. There could never be enough hype, there could never be
enough said, and there may never be a proper tribute written of them during their lifetime — maybe even after.
No, the only fitting way to truly understand is to see them live and make your ears suffer the beautiful damage
their racket will cause.
On their tour behind Get Behind Me Satan, the band is playing smaller venues, and this past week saw them
take up a three-night residency in Boston’s recently-restored Opera House. How it’s still standing after Jack and
Meg White got through with it is a testament to the miracles of modern architecture. The thundering drums and
screaming, hissing, distorted, bellowing, painful music brutally beaten out of Jack’s guitars would’ve leveled
lesser buildings, and that’s before we get into Jack’s otherworldly vocals. Never has a live band hit this kind of a
peak in the last 20, hell, 30 years. The Who wish they could be this loud. Zeppelin wished they could recreate
this power. Bono prays he could knock people out like this. The music that Jack III and Meg are creating right
now on record alone has them on the fast track to legend status. But live, my god, live they’re just incredible.
|THE WHITE STRIPES
Third night setlist:
When I Hear My Name
Party Of Special Things To Do
Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground
The Hardest Button To Button
Lord, Send Me An Angel
Jambalaya On The Bayou
Astro/Jack The Ripper
Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)
As Ugly As I Seem
You Belong To Me
Seven Nation Army
Sept. 22, the third of three nights in the Hub. Peers Brendan Benson did
an admirable job warming up and warning the crowd, pointing out
audience members plugging their ears and noting that they’d be in for a
rude awakening with the Stripes. They weren’t kidding. I had seen the
Stripes on their Elephant tour on one of the shows made up after Jack’s
broken finger caused the cancellation of a number of summer dates, and
they were incredible then, too. But, two or three songs in, I felt like I’d
never seen them before. They have ascended to another tier of rock
euphoria since that show in winter 2003.
Jack and Meg came out amid their backdrop of snow-white palm trees,
Meg to her drum seat, Jack to his guitar. They launched into “When I Hear
My Name” with all the ferocity of the meanest punk band on the planet and
never let up. The volume with which Jack screamed “I WANNA
DISAPPEAR! OHHH OHHHH! YEAH YEAAAHHHH!!” bellowed up the
symphony hall’s walls, ran around the ceiling’s dome and landed with a
thud on the poor, unsuspecting crowd members below — myself
included. I was in near hysterics by the midpoint of “Blue Orchid.” Had a
band ever lit themselves on fire this quickly before? How long before the
flame goes out? None of those things mattered of course, because I was
too wrapped up in the insanity.
“Hello!” Jack greeted. “I am your host for the night, Jack White. And over
there is Meg White, and she will be the lady of the night — and I mean that
in the best way.”
What’s easy to miss in all of this is the level of musicianship that Jack
possesses. All night, he was bouncing from guitar to guitar to guitar to
piano to marimba to mandolin and back to guitar. There was an organ,
too, but I suppose that no song (perhaps their cover of Dylan’s “Love
Sick”?) struck their fancy that it was required. Midway through “Dead
Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” Jack tossed the guitar across the stage due to a broken string, ran to the piano
and finished the song, all with Meg keeping perfect time. The man is absurdly talented, and his slide work and
mastery of static and distortion are something to be admired.
Their song selection, too, hints at a great understanding and appreciation for the annals of 20th century blues,
country and rock, as was evidenced by “Lord, Send Me an Angel,” “You Belong to Me” and “Small Faces.” Jack
White, despite all the demonic cowboy getups, is one of the true masters of song of our time. Their quiet side trip
in “As Ugly As I Seem” and their bluegrass swagger of “Little Ghost” are evidence enough of this. It’s more than
homage, they truly believe in what they’re playing.
They also appreciate when their audience is having a good time. Jack made sure to twice point out one young
boy in the balcony who was the only one standing and dancing in his particular section. “Boy, you’ve made me
proud! You know you’re not at the movies, you’re at a rock n’ roll show!”
Later on, he made sure that his appreciation didn’t go overlooked. “You see that boy in the red?” Jack told a
roadie and the crowd. “That is my new son! He stood up and everyone followed his example! I want him to have
all of my records!”
Sure enough, that lucky kid had a box full of the Stripes’ LPs and 45s delivered to his seat. It wasn’t a gimmick
and it wasn’t staged, this was Jack doing what he does best, and that’s what’s never been done before. Sure,
bands in the past have pointed out particular folks in the crowd, but to do it twice and to be that giving? And later,
he sang the last verse of “You Belong to Me” to one woman in the crowd, with only her and those closest able to
hear him. The man loves his audience, which explains why they run through their set so ferociously that they
barely take breaks between songs.
By the end of the night, capped with “Seven Nation Army” and Jack White’s personal sing-along “Boll Weevil,” the
crowd was exhausted. In just about an hour and a half, the siblings White had barreled through all walls. They
have absolutely no peer making music today, and they fit in with the greats of yesteryear so easily — maybe even
too easily. They’re simply one of the greatest bands since the dawn of rock. But there’s no need to sit back and
try to absorb that or totally understand it.
Just go see them. Your ears will never be the same.
Check out The White Stripes at www.whitestripes.com and whitestripes.net. But then go see them. Immediately.