Thursday, September 01, 2005

Jack & Meg

Noreen & I went to see The White Stripes last night at the Auditorium. It was the third of three nights in Chicago for the duo, and little was left behind as they left town.

First, a little bit about the Aud. I hadn't been in the place for many years, but it was magnificent. Beautifully restored, and with unmatched acoustics and sloping sightlines I would put it at the top of the heap for Chicago venues. Even in Row AA the view was clear and the sound was great.

Jack & Meg took the stage and immediately launched into "Blue Orchid," the fervid opener from Get Behind Me Satan. While it could have been a bit louder, the song delivers exactly the sort of crunching guitar and pounding drums that are the band's signature.

Unfortunately, it was followed up with "The Nurse." As with the album, where this one also follows "Blue Orchid," the marimba-based song merely acts as a momentum killer.

The band proceeded, in fact, to essentially play the new album in track order as their opening set. Different, but it had the effect of replicating the album's maddening sequencing. Every time it seemed that combustion was about to be reached ("Little Ghost," "As Ugly As I Seem," and especially a smoking-hot "Instinct Blues") the fever would be broken with yet another ballady piano number (I love Jack, but his piano playing is like watching a great painter take up a mallet and chisel. The art is there, but the talent lies elsewhere).

After running through the album to "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)," it was time to take a bow and leave the stage.


Whether it was an "encore" or a second set, when they returned to the stage it was for some balls out screaming noise. This was what I came looking for, and the second set delivered. Jack dancing and backpedaling across the stage like Ali with a Rickenbacker, careening from center stage mike to a second mike next to the drum kit (where the real ass-kicking took place). Meg pounding the skins with primal fury. Delta blues channeled through a black and red caballero with a fistful of hot licks.


Nirvana was reached with the back-to-back killers: "The Hardest Button To Button" and "Seven Nation Army."

I guess I should apologize for being retrograde, but for me The White Stripes are a simple concept. Beat the hell out of the drums, play a scorching, crunchy blues lick, and turn up the volume. In the second set, that was the game plan, and the smile never left my face.


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