Story and photos by Tony BonyataFor the first of their three sold-out performances at the grand Auditorium Theater, Jack and Meg White, collectively known as The White Stripes, showed no signs of slowing down six years into their career as the dynamic duo roared through a staggering performance overflowing with well-known hits, less familiar deep-cuts and obscure cover songs.
With a maximized red, white and black stage set (utilizing white potted plants, clam-shell stage lights and a huge South American backdrop of palm trees, mountains and sea) The White Stripes delivered a minimized set of snarling, ferocious rockers, angular Latin-spiced lullabies and scorching, primordial blues. With drummer Meg, noticeably more slender and attractive in her tight-fitting black leather pants and black top, seated behind her modest kit, the vast stage was also augmented by piano, two large tympanis (which Meg stood behind to deliver the coy "Passive Manipulator" from their fifth and latest release Get Behind Me Satan) and a large six-foot red-and-white marimba (which vocalist/ guitarist Jack White at one point stood stoically behind as he coolly pounded out the breezy, Latin-laced number "The Nurse," also from Get Behind Me Satan). While the once-married Detroit couple still continue to play out their faux brother-sister relationship - admittedly with a wink and a nudge - and three-color coordinates (in clothes, instruments, stage set, album and web design), the sheen of what should seem dull and contrived well over half a decade into their career, still glimmers brightly for predominately one reason alone - these two are the most fascinating live performers in rock today.
Jack, clad in black flamenco threads and sporting a pencil-thin moustache and slight neigh of a goatee, stomped through "The Hardest Button to Button" and "Seven Nation Army," both which gave the impression of a spine-cracking bassline thanks to White's deceiving octave pedal. As Meg provided a low, incessant thud throughout one of their earliest numbers "Canon" from their self-titled debut, Jack spat out lyrics and stinging leads alike, before injecting a brief surf-solo from Dick Dale's "Miserlou," as the song further morphed into "Jack The Ripper" and eventually the searing, raw blues of "Ball and Biscuit" from their 2003 effort Elephant. This wasn't to be the last of one song running into the next without notice eitther. Long known for performing without a preconceived setlist, the tempo and structure of their show was raw, untapped and more than dangerous, as they rapidly chewed through numbers and mustered up a mélange of malicious medleys. As Jack paced back and forth from Meg's drumkit to center stage the singer himself, along with the setlist, seemed like a caged tiger waiting to strike once the cage door swung open. And bust open it did, as the two unhinged "I Think I Smell A Rat" from the welded-on "Red Bird," not to mention the explosive opener "Black Math" and the real treat for diehard fans - an incendiary version of Captain Beefheart's "A Party of Special Things To Do," a song which The White Stripes would record in 2000 for their ridiculously rare Sub Pop vinyl single.
During their five-song encore, the duo delivered two delightfully earthy numbers back-to-back. First was a cover of bluesman Blind Willie McTell's "Lord Send Me An Angel," followed by their own "Little Ghost," a rousing bluegrass number from their latest album performed on just mandolin and tambourine. That the twosome could hold the packed-house in the palm of the hands for the entire evening was a testament to their talent, chemistry and onstage charisma.
Jack White is, undoubtedly, a rock star to be reckoned with. He's got the look, the presence, the voice and the chops. But it's the modest beauty of both Meg's primitive percussive style and demure demeanor that makes The White Stripes one the most lovable, entertaining acts in the, still rather young, history of rock & roll. Formulaic, without formula... only Einstein with a Louisiana mojo-hand in his coat pocket could concoct such a strange alchemy that defies reason.
Set list from The White Stripes Aug 29, 2005 Chicago show: 01) Black Math
02) Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground (on guitar / piano / organ)
03) I Think I Smell A Rat / Red Bird
06) When I Hear My Name (beautifully extended)
07) Passive Manipulation
08) Blue Orchid
09) Party of Special Things To Do
10) Hotel Yorba
11) My Doorbell
12) Sometimes (?) / Death Letter
13) White Moon
15) Wasting My Time
16) Instinct Blues
17) The Nurse 18) Let's Shake Hands
19) In The Cold Cold Night
20) The Same Boy You've Always Known
21) The Denial Twist
22) As Ugly As I Seem
23) Apple Blossom
24) Screwdriver / Passive Manipulation (reprise)
25) The Hardest Button To Button
26) Cannon / Jack The Ripper / Ball and Biscuit
27) Lord Send Me An Angel
28) Little Ghost
29) Seven Nation Army
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