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Surely, at least to this writer, one of the prevailing beliefs about this first live CD issue from the White Stripes is (arguably) that the recording is both electrifying and a shame. Electrifying for obvious reasons, because Jack White is one of the last of the true Rock Stars in the Age of Auto-Tune, and the type of manic prodigy that we’re blessed to have walking among us. Criticisms of Meg White’s drumming skills or lack thereof are boring. Her skill was never the point of her presence in the band; her duff planted on that “Meg”-emblazoned stool is about her famously intuitive drumming technique that Jack has long described as “childlike.” In fact, so much of the unabashed joy that brought so many into the Stripes’ fold over the years is the¬†fire they bring to their frenzied and sweaty full-tilt performances, and refusal to adhere to a set list, or even write one. It was never about percussive prowess.

Conversely, the shame about Under Great White Northern Lights as a recording is all the feelings hearing the band at their finest kicks up for those of us who are still waiting for the great return of Jack and Meg, not because there’s anything here to take critical issue with. Quite simply, it cranks in ways that live CDs should. It calls your neck hairs to stand on end as if there was a string pulling them. Charisma blazing, ridiculous, paint-peeling guitar work, Jack’s searing yowler of a vox; surely this can’t be a good-bye horses record, but rather just a chronicle of an important anniversary for the band and where they were creatively at the time. Because when I hear the opening organ of Icky Thump highpoint “I’m Slowly Turning into You,” I still picture the disco ball lights illuminating Madison Square Garden in July 2007. I still picture our favorite magnanimous rag-and-bone duo slaying, hands flailing, fists pumping and the air of endless summer outside.

Over-analysis aside, Under Great White Northern Lights is a faithful representation of the intense, whiplash-inducing¬†dynamism of a White Stripes concert. It’s also one of the few live, commercial recordings I can think of that you can hand to a non-fan and say, “Here’s why they’re great,” without having to explain the nuances or esoteric jams that the Dave Matthews Band is given to on their live releases. (“Warehouse” anyone?) This is a rip-roaring, unassailably compelling celebration of a band that has left an indubitable mark on the rock ‘n’ roll consciousness with nothing but constrictions and passion at their disposal. (Third Man/Warner Bros.) –Carrie Alison