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'Blackpool Lights' gets
down and dirty

The White Stripes
Under Blackpool Lights (V2/Third Man)


“I’m in the right place but the wrong time? That’s how I
feel every day!”

And so it is for the White Stripes, who have made a
career out of carrying the torch for classic, dirty blues
rock, simultaneously honoring Son House and the
Sonics with every broken riff and cymbal crash. So
when it came time to release a live DVD,
Blackpool Lights,
it’s no wonder they’ve taken the road
they have.

Shot on 8mm film,
Under Blackpool Lights gives the
Stripes the classic feel of a bootleg, not far off from
how Led Zeppelin was presented on their DVD
release. Everything about the package is classic
Stripes, too, from the grainy film stock to the cardboard casing right down to the booklet, complete with upside-
down images and an essay that reads like the back of a Kingsmen LP from 1964. But it’s the backside of the
actual disc that matters, and it delivers.

The show, shot in Blackpool, England at the start of 2004, starts with the heavy stomp of “When I Hear My Name”
and “Black Math,” and never quite lets up for the next 70 or so minutes. Only on slower numbers “Jolene” and “I
Fought Piranhas” does the assault somewhat subside, but even then it’s replaced by a quiet, brooding intensity,
setting up the crowd the way Muhammad Ali would set up an opponent for a left hook with a subtle jab.

Jack White’s voice cracks and warbles throughout the movie, all while his sister Meg’s minimalist drumming
thrashes and clangs away in the background. White’s guitar is what really carries the band, though. His playing,
a surreal mix of Dave Davies, Johnny Ramone and Robert Johnson, cuts through the speakers with distortion,
feedback and intricacy all at once. It never feels overdone, but it can feel intimidating.

But this isn’t all doom and gloom, there’s an air of fun, too. The band never seems to take themselves too
seriously, and with bouncers like “Hotel Yorba” and “De Ballit of de Boll Weevil,” they let their inner goofiness
take over. And while there aren’t any real DVD “extras,” there are inside jokes hidden within the film itself – take a
look at Jack’s right arm and you’ll see NOXIOUS and OBNOXIOUS alternately throughout the program.

So what does this all amount to? The fact that all the hype surrounding this band the last few years has been
well-deserved. There’s no one playing with quite the same sound or energy right now, and they’re one of the last
beacons of blues rock that doesn’t find itself typecast with the hippie or jam scene. This is a rock band, first and
foremost, playing the right songs with the right force at, despite what Jack may say, the right time.
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