Meg firing off.
Jack turns inside out.
Review and Photos by Tony BonyataBy now most of us have heard how these two kids from Detroit, clad in red and white threads, are shaking up this thing called rock 'n' roll again. We've heard about how their live shows are the most captivating thing since Hendrix got ahold of a can of lighter fluid and even going so far as dissecting their relationship between one another (they're brother and sister, no, make that ex-husband and wife, no, make that...oh forget it). Anyway, the point is, these two are being exalted as the new saviors of rock 'n' roll. And, after witnessing the second of two hometown shows last Wednesday evening, I would just like to set the record straight once and for all. The White Stripes are the new saviors of rock 'n' roll.
After an impressive opening two-week stint at number one in the UK charts with their hot new album Elephant, as well a healthy two week placement in the Billboard Top 100 (number 6 and 15 respectively), the duo proved to be nothing short of breathtaking as they took to the stage of the grand Masonic Temple Theatre. But rather than bursting onto their hometown turf like returning war heroes in a ticker tape parade, the demure Meg White; clad in tight-fitting white top, red slacks and a coalminer's daughter bouffant, humbly walked straight to her drum-kit with a smile on her face and head tilted down. Jack White, wearing red and black legged trousers, a pair of red gator skinned shoes and long stringy black hair that curtained his face for most of the evening, slowly crawled out on all fours like a feline ready to strike. He then took a bite from an apple, spit it into the audience, stood up and said "Hi neighbors." Hardly a conquering entrance. But then the explosion hit.
The candy-coated duo opened up with the triple whammy of "Black Math" from Elephant, "When I Hear My Name" and a blistering take of "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground," which saw the kids in the audience bumrush the stage and frantically pogo to the music as if it was 1970 all over again and The Stooges were the house band. Although the show lasted just a little over an hour, the duo ran through numbers that touched on not only all four of their albums, but also a handful of rousing covers, which ranged from country, psychedelic blues, primordial rock 'n' roll, late '60s garage punk and even a truncated Cole Porter standard.
On songs such as the greasy, gut-bucket blues of "Ball and Biscuit" and the speed punk of "Let's Build A Home," with Jack's blinding leads and stinging slide guitar work along with Meg's raw and powerful drumming, the two generated enough electricity to power Ypsilanti through the Fourth of July. On one their earlier numbers "The Big Three Killed My Baby," Jack passionately tore into a feedback frenzy, amid the tribal beatings from his better half, that would've done Jimi proud.
Although Meg certainly isn't the most technically proficient drummer, her huge, primal beats complimented Jack's harrowing guitar work perfectly. When she briefly fell out of time on a couple of occasions, Jack would immediately turn to her and rope her back into the groove with a power chord and a nod. And that's really the beauty of the two - how well they read off and immediately react to one another. There's a knowing chemistry between the two; a chemistry shared only between close siblings, loving spouses or, as in this case, musical soul mates. Toss in spontaneity, rawness and an unaffected realness, along with their own chemical mojo, and these two demonstrate what the best of rock 'n' roll has always been about.
At one point during a rip-roaring take on fellow Detroit rockers the Soledad Brothers' "I'm Goin' Back To Memphis," Jack climbed atop Meg's red-and-white peppermint skinned bass drum and flailed off like a sugar-buzzed five-year old from a playground jungle gym. He then gingerly slid his arm down Meg's legs and proceeded to pound the daylights of the kick-drum pedal with his hand.
Pacing the show to perfection the two weaved in more tender moments such as "We're Gonna Be Friends," "I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart" and the enduring "In The Cold, Cold Night," where Meg stood up and took center stage. With a slightly flat, out of tune, yet cuter-than-a-button vocal delivery, the crowd looked on like proud parents at their child's first school Christmas program.
Jack's high-pitched voice; falling somewhere between Bon Scott, Robert Plant and Chris Rock, however, had never sounded better, as he quickly brayed the lyrics to one of their more obscure tunes "Lafayette Blues" in French. He later wantonly pleaded into Meg's eyes, "Let's have a ball, Sugar, and take our sweet time about it" on "Ball and Biscuit" and offered up a sexually tense delivery on a '50s rave up of The Jodimars' "Clarabella" ( a song which was also a regular in The Beatles' early '60s setlists).
The car industry may have once owned this city, but last week when prodigal son and daughter Jack and Meg White returned home, The Motor City belonged to them. Opening up for The White Stripes were two other Detroit-based bands The Go (which used to feature Jack on guitar before he formed The White Stripes) and Whirlwind Heat (recently signed to Jack White's new Third Man record label).
While The Go's crude, basic rock didn't have much staying power, the guitar-less trio of Whirlwind Heat provided an interesting backdrop of fuzzy, bass heavy avant-garde garage rock, proving that there's still more to mine from this musical city than just those two cute candy cane children.
The White Stripes 04.16.03 Setlist
1. Black Math
2. When I Hear My Name
3. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
5. Let's Shake Hands
6. I Think I Smell A Rat
7. The Hardest Button To Button
8. I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart
9. In The Cold, Cold Night
10. Hotel Yorba
11. Small Faces (Public Nuisance)
12. We're Going To Be Friends
13. Seven Nation Army
14. Lafayette Blues
15. Clarabella (The Jodimars)
16. Ball And Biscuit
17. Wasting My Time
18. The Big Three Killed My Baby
19. Let's Build A Home
20. I'm Goin' Back To Memphis (Soledad Brothers)
21. Boll Weevil (Trad.)
Coming up next week: An in-depth look into the legacy of Detroit music; from the R&B of Motown, John Lee Hooker's gritty blues, the early sonic punk from The Stooges and The MC5 to today's burgeoning garage rock renaissance.
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