White Stripes

Jack was nimble, Jack was quick. Jack White sold out the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” and was named one-half of the Best Touring Band by an online poll, lickety-split.

“I don’t believe we’ve played this bar before,” he bashfully quipped near the end of his band’s sweaty, frantic, undeniably great two-hour takedown of Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night; perhaps a nod to the cynics who said the White Stripes couldn’t do it. They wondered loudly on internet music blogs what the booking firm was thinking with such a lofty premise. As it turns out, New York City is still mad for Jack & Meg, and was willing to pack to the rafters to get a taste of the tri-colored duo’s explosive blues-rock hybrid magic.

Along for the ride were country legend Porter Wagoner (replete in a sequined blue blazer and joined by good friend Marty Stuart), introduced as “the thin man from West Plains,” and commended by White as the “best dressed man in country music,” and brooding legend Nick Cave and his new band Grinderman’s first Stateside show.
White Stripes
To see the iconoclast Cave drench the hallowed Garden stage for 45 minutes with his handlebar mustache, infamous baritone wail and mortician-from-Tombstone appearance, and assail the ears of the uninitiated was both chuckle-inducing and a true delight. More cock rock than murder ballads and cinematic gloom rock, Cave spread his wings as a crazed heavy metal preacherman, and with all the noir-ish melodrama of an Oliver Stone film. Enchanting with his hard-charging, bass-heavy backup band, Grinderman tore through album cuts “(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free,” “Man in the Moon,” an ominous “When My Love Comes Down,” and a dirty, dirgy, maniacal “No Pussy Blues.” Hard to believe Cave will be 50 years-old come September, and maybe age is giving him humor, as the statuesque Cave fell on his rear during his electrifyingly noisy set, laughed it off, happily telling the crowd that he can tell his children about falling on his “ass at Madison Square Gardens.”

Now on to those Stripes. With a backdrop of silhouette-reflecting red velvet and no other frills to speak of, (they didn’t even employ the arena video screens) and the threat of MSG swallowing the duo whole, Jack and Meg acquitted themselves of early concerns. They simply can (and will) play anywhere and burn the place down with pure charisma, wild-eyed belief and the support of their devoted following of candy cane children. And they have, lately. Right, bowling alleys and buses of Canada?

Blasting through crowd-favorites like “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “When I Hear My Name,” “Jolene,” and “Hotel Yorba” as a live-wire first act, Meg White then took to the stage soon after to deliver her increasingly capable whiskey-soaked vocals to “Cold, Cold Night.”
White Stripes
A double shot of album cuts from Icky Thump — “A Martyr for my Love” and “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” — turned everything up to 11, with the latter tune providing an early highlight, thanks to a disco ball, crowd participation (especially men, who seem especially eager for the song), and White’s premier showmanship.

And it is White’s rock ‘n’ roll animal showmanship and throat-busting yowl that makes a Stripes show. Indisputable skill, true passion and utterly obsessive dedication to his craft and presentation are to be marveled at. Some critics like to color him with the assertion that his “craft” is nothing but fancy pedal footwork and power chords, but perhaps they haven’t heard more than the Stripes’ formidable radio hits.

Two more Icky tracks, a ridiculously smooth “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues” and sparkly “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You’re Told)” punctuated by flying glowsticks through the crowd, a slowed-down “Fell In Love with a Girl” and a shred-tastic “Ball and Biscuit” closed out the main set. After what felt like an interminably long break (clocking nearly 10 minutes, it has been rumored that White had sustained an injury), during which several crowd members seated around me feared the Stripes had done a runner, Jack and Meg returned to deliver an exhaustive, fire-breathing encore that included a speedy and swinging “Blue Orchid,” a massive crowd sing-a-long to the groovy, sexed-up “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” (well, it is hard to get that unbelievable Kate Moss-starring video out of one’s head), elicited unanimous cheering to a surprise appearance by “Little Ghost,” a seriously Earth-rattling, jacked-up “Catch Hell Blues” an electric guitar-laden “My Doorbell” and a stop-start, crowd-baiting, houselights extravaganza for “Seven Nation Army.”

Traditional show-closer “Boll Weevil” began with White sweetly imploring, “Now girls, calm down. Boys, you gonna calm down too, right? If you’d sing along, we would really love you a lot. Not that we don’t love you a lot already. You’ve been very nice to us.”And with that, Jack and Meg walked downstage, clasped hands, looked the rabid tens of thousands of fans in the eyes and said thank-you for buying their CDs and attending their shows. A visible sense of relief seemed to pass over the former Detroit residents’ faces as they waved goodnight. Aside from the uneven sound-mixing, lack of video screens for the nosebleeders, glowstick-throwing frat boys and meatheads, and the desire to experience the Stripes in smaller venues that better harvest their beloved bluesy kookiness and electric eccentricities, this was a tremendously entertaining, ballsy show by one of the most important bands in the world. Nothing icky about that. – Carrie Alison/photos by Carrie Alison

  1. This has to be the best review of the show I have yet to read! Thank you Carrie Alison
    I was there for this wonderful concert and loved every second of it!


  2. What a show; What a review!


  3. Thanks V. We think so to.