Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The White Stripes - Boston Live Show Review

The White Stripes rocked Boston - 7/23/07
Boston University's Agganis Arena

Welcome to Boston University's Agganis Arena - home to the Terrier hockey team. For one night however - it belonged to the White Stripes. The stage and everything on it were dipped in crimson. The backdrop – and everything in front of it: the amplifiers, piano, monitors and stands were Red, Red, Red. This effect served as a reminder (like we needed one!) that the songs of the White Stripes were not just in the air… they were in our veins. The sole splash of color on stage was Jack White’s guitar of choice – the guitar of the moment; and he changed them often as suited him. If you didn’t know already – Jack White is in control.

Guitar Wizard

Jack White - just electric!
Phoenix photograph by Carina Mastrocola

Song of the Night:
"Catch Hell Blues"

The White Stripes opened with “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and the crowd went wild! Within moments they had burned through “Hotel Yorba” – an old-fan favorite they used to reserve until later in the show. It just demonstrated, immediately, that the band’s scope has been completely opened up with new albums worth of material. A live performance could be played to the album or be something else altogether. During “Hotel Yorba,” the White Stripes stopped on a dime so that Jack could play part of a sweet little country ditty on that guitar of his. The timing was right, the feel was slow and breezy – like a classic country song. Everything for those few moments were correct. And just like that, White returned to “Yorba” without losing a note. The audience was left with the briefest of memories of this temporary but artistic deviation. By the time Jack reached the electric blues-steeped track, “When I Hear My Name,” the crowd had already long since been won over. It was a hell of a night!

The high point for the entire night was the formidable play by Jack White on the amazing “Catch Hell Blues.” It’s a new song on the Icky Thump album that is vastly understated on the released recording. White tore the roof off the house last night – speaking to the guitar ghosts through his bared soul. This was sheer joy! During the dazzling sequence, the red stage was dotted with white lights from the disco ball high above (giving the room the look of a strawberry!), Jack White climbed red stairs playing guitar the entire way. He stopped when he reached the top – standing some twenty-five feet above the stage and even higher still above the crowd below. The last kick of Meg’s bass drum came. Silence in the Arena! Jack turned away from the crowd and raised his guitar. The anticipation grew by the moment until a squeal of energy and the instrument emitted a cackle of electric rage. Then silence again – the audience was being controlled and Jack White was the puppeteer. His shadow – Red on Red - loomed huge into the rafters. Playing again, Jack trod across this elevated stage slowly as smoke rose from the floor around him. It was as if he was summoning the spirits or at least communing with them. (The new track "300 m.p.h. Torrential Outpour Blues" - was almost as good. If you don't have the new album yet - you should really go out and pick it up!)

When the Stripes eventually got to the title track of the new album - “Icky Thump” – it was a fast-paced crowd pleaser. Fan involvement echoed through out the show but never was it so pronounced as during this track. White never had to utter the catchy lyric “La La La, La Laaaaa!” in the chorus. That was done for him by the audience! The Stripes used “Icky Thump” as a launching pad to enter into an intense version of “Ball and Biscuit.”

Not since Jimi Hendrix has guitar ruled with such a mighty fist on stage. Jack White toys with the audience – regularly making eye contact cues with Meg to make sure the drums and guitar are tight. Meg stepped out from the drums and took center stage to sing the fan favorite, “In the Cold, Cold Night.” During the set, Jack walked to the back of the stage – sat down on an amplifier, facing away from the crowd. He played well and loud, perfectly synched up with Meg – but never stole the spotlight during her song. They never fell out of beat.

During an especially memorable encore, Jack and Meg teased the crowd with a medley of White Stripe favorites. Jack began playing, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” then launched into “I Think I Small A Rat,” before settling into the new song "Rag and Bone." Well into the song, the guitar and drum riff for “Rat” would return again before the song concluded. Also in the encore was a wonderful version of “Seven Nation Army” – a song that Jack White had vowed he would never again play live. Thankfully, that promise was not kept. One of the best live shows I have seen in the last two years. You must see this band play live!

More pictures from the Show:
from the On the Download Blog
(Photographer Carina Mastrocola)

Review of the new White Stripes album:
"Icky Thump"


Jay said...

OMG! Stripes at my alma mater! I'm sooooooo jealous. Great review.

sue said...

just saw your blog whilst googling for white stripes reviews. nice blog by the way. i too was at the boston show and it was probably the best show i have ever seen in my life. i mean, the top of my list was lenny kravitz in 1996 but here we are 11 years later, someone else needs to fill that spot. there were probably two people between myself and the stage so of course this added to my wonderful experience. i was so blown by the show and how jack is pretty much an orchestrator of everything. it was obvious to me that there is no strict set list and that jack just kind of rides the wave and feels out the vibe and on a whim decides what he might play and how he'll play it. shows true, true talent.
i was trying to compare the greatness to someone and jimi hendrix came to my mind too! i also thought of john lennon in terms of intelligent lyrics and arrangements. i have never seen them live before. i tried to get tix to the opera house show in 2005 but i got on that train too late. half way through the show i started to feel nauseous because i had never seen them before and how dare i wait this long? i have missed so much!!

love them

Tibi Puiu said...

Dudes like White Stripes are the best live band at present date. Sue is right like Jack is the orchestra man; the think he can do with that guitar, he can actually play it to sound like you hear 2-3 guitars. That's sick man

ajmes ecliariel said...

So sorry to disagree, but Jack IS NOT a guitar wizard...

Ryan of the RSL blog said...

I don't censor people.... You said it - I posted it. I have no idea, whatsoever - however, why you would go to a review of a band whose musicians you don't respect or praise - to trash them. Who has that kind of time? But then again - figuring you out, however, is not my job. I'm just a lowly blogger read daily by many on four continents.

Tom E said...

I actually found Monday night's show to be one of the most disappointing of my life. The White Stripes are a band I adore live, they really pull out the stops and expand vastly on the recordings, but they really weren't there - Jack looked disinterested and the hollow venue with sound glitches really sucked the soul from any performance.

It's interesting that to some a concert is a great performance whereas for others it's a let down. If you have the means, get to another Stripes gig as soon as possible. I saw a 2hr set from them In London 2 years ago that was unparalleled and really made last week's 1 hr new album run-through seem paltry.

I can't help but agree with you that Jack is a guitar wizard. The best of his generation I'd say.

Ryan of the RSL blog said...

Very true and astute statement about people's observations about the same show. Thank you for visiting.

Here is the White Stripe's 2001 London Forum show. Download away!


Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan,

I commented a week ago on the page where you posted the London show. I was expressing disappointment in the July 23 Boston show, complaining primarily about the sound quality. You replied that the sound was great where you were. I was happy to read more opinions here.

I'd love to know where you were, in case I see another show at Agganis.

You commented in your review that Jack never stole the spotlight from Meg during "In the Cold, Cold Night," but during her keyboard section, where I was it sounded like Jack drowned her out. It is amazing how different peoples's experiences could be at the same show! I appreciate you posting the tracks here--I can hear what I missed!


Ryan of the RSL blog said...

Wade - your comments on this show were posted a week ago and exactly where you left them - in the comment area of the White Stripes London show. They now appear twice.

I sat in the seats to the right side - just above the floor area. The may have been a problem with the sound in front - not sure. I can just tell you there were hundreds and hundreds of people having a good time in my section.

Not sure what you mean when you keep referring to Jack White "stealing the spotlight" during "In the Cold, Cold Night." There was an obvious technical difficulty with the keyboards and Jack played guitar to cover the problem. Meg walked to the keys - tried to get them to work and walked away. She wasn't there more than a minute. To back up this fact, the keys were not used again during the show - and could have been used in at least three more songs they played that night.

sue said...

to ajmes ecliariel -
no need to be sorry to disagree but i would love to hear your reasons why you think so. you must play guitar???
is it that you don't like the music? i mean, i don't love to listen to stevie ray vaughn but damn sure i think he's one of the best. i just don't know if jack white's ability to play guitar very well is up for debate. but i would love to have one nonetheless.

sue said...

Tom E
that's a total bummer that the show on 7/23 was not good for you. i don't have any thing else to compare that show to since i had never seen them before. but i will say a few things:
first, i know that my experience of being right up there at the stage contributed a great deal to my experience. i saw so many little things about the performance that one does not get to see sitting elsewhere. and it blew my mind that they didn't have a set list. after reading a lot of things about them online since the show i found out that they never really use one. i think that is pretty cool. to be so confident in your music and your performance to not have a list to follow... pretty cool. i felt a total connection to the show and thought jack totally dug the vibe of the crowd. so interesting that yours is the complete opposite. i also thought that the sound was good where i was but i know that the acoustics in the arena are not great as a whole.
the last thing that i was impressed with was - i never got bored. i get bored at shows quite a bit. i am also a singer so i love to sing words and when i don't know song lyrics at a concert it's not that great of an experience for me. i don't know a lot of stripes songs from before white blood cells and it didn't even matter to me that i didn't know them. it was just a weird, unusual experience for me that time. i am sure you saw some great WS shows and it makes me excited to know that they could easily top the show i saw. sorry it wasn't good for you. but we can all rock on!

Anonymous said...

lenny kravitz? cmon man, he blows. as for jimi hendrix..well, hes jimi hendrix, the greatest guitarist ever. Jack white is a rock n roll saviour and he doesnt even know it. I saw a bunch of their shows from this tour including Montreal, MSG, and this show in Boston as well. Everytime I saw them Id leave completely baffled by what Id just seen. The energy jack white exudes is ferocious and leaves you wanting more. In all, they are an amazing band to see live and whose music will never let you down.