UPDATE: Actually it was the last time, just didn't know it then. I thought I'd be seeing The White Stripes well into my 80's. Just not to be as Jack and Meg recently announced the roller coaster ride has come to an end.
In my original blog I didn't go into detail about what a horrific fast-break trip this turned out to be. Always the food troubles on a long trip one-way, Fairfax VA is about 13 hours away from home. Decided I could drive after the show, cut off some hours from the next days travel while coming down from the buzz. Would have been a good plan...except for the torrential downpour that had visibility at zero on the highways and no vacancies in any hotel you stopped at. We pulled off the road to sleep in our car for 4 hours before waking, still in the middle of a downpour, and driving off towards home.
In retrospect, I'm really glad I went.
"Okay, you hear and see it and it's going to happen fast. Now, you're not going to get it all, and you might hear the wrong words, and then afterwards, see I can't...I won't be able to talk to you afterwards..."
Bob Dylan in Don't Look Back.
He could have been looking ahead.
An above average show from an artist that never fails to amaze. I'm on about my 18th show with Jack and there's always something new.
Overall the show was a little shorter than some this year but filled with more than enough special moments to warrant a "BEST EVER" or two in the immediate afterglow.
Standard opener in Dead Leaves And the Dirty Ground from the breakthrough third album, White Blood Cells. Usually the first two slots are fast-paced warm-ups. Tonight it was done at about 3/4's speed. Not quite the 'rip your face off' pace it usually has. I think it was better for the care he took with the song.
What You Might Have Missed:
"I didn't feel so bad till the sun went down (plaintive moan)
then I come home
no one to wrap my arms around."
He did a 'timrod' on this one and just stole those words from Son House.
Always like it when he steps over to talk to Meg in a spot where you expect the second 'candy cane' song. Jack opts to do a verse of Icky Thump (normally the third song) and create a medley with When I Hear My Name, the song likely slated for the #2 slot. The extended center of this song explores the melody of WIHMN before
Jack closes with the remainder of an energetic Icky Thump. A two-fer.
What You Might Have Missed: WIHMN...not much to this one besides a monster beat. Icky Thump; "White Americans, what?/ Nothing better to do?/Why don't you kick yourself out?/You're an immigrant too?"
The long musical interlude had the effect of slowing the tempo, making this opening trio of songs a little less driven than normal. Later in the show Jack questions the audiences enthusiasm, saying he can't tell if they're excited or bored. He might have laid the seeds for a reticent audience in the opening segment. Icky Thump closes with some intensity but that momentum is lost during the rather long break for a guitar switch before Death Letter Blues. This made no difference in the quality of the opening, it just made it slightly different than your average show.
Death Letter Blues has moved up the set list a few slots. It's traditionally the blow-out guitar extravaganza of the night...or one of a few, in any case. In slot #4 it's shorter by a few minutes but no less intense. This song is the best modern-rock
interpretation of a Mississippi Delta Blues song I've ever heard. Jack's love of the blues is evident in most of what this band does but this song shows his unconscious talent. He has tapped into the soul of this music and it's passion explodes where it may have merely simmered in the original version. We got a very good version tonight.
What You Might Have Missed: The ghost of Son House slapping his knee.
A show without Cannon is no show at all. When it's paired with Little Room, instead of it's normal mate, John the Revelator, it becomes a rare moment to savour. I'm not sure why we didn't get JtR but if you listen at the point the song switches and Meg starts her beat, Jack is laughing, saying "oh, oh, oH, OH, OH", as if he is reading her lead and gives her what she's playing. Maybe he's not the control freak some make him out to be.
What You Might Have Missed: "Lord above, how could man, be evil?"
Hotel Yorba is fun filler at the best of times. And fun filler at the worst of times. Mostly it's just fun filler.
What You Might Have Missed: It's country night in Virginia.
Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman is another treat. Love the songs where Jack switches from piano to guitar.
What You Might Have Missed: "every single girl needs help/ climbing up a tree/ you know it don't take much/to satisfy me"
And now for the NIN-moment, complete with disco ball and crowd grunts. Slowly Turning Into You is the center piece of the whole set. Jack pulls out all the audience-participation tricks and light-show he has at his disposal.
Lovely moody piece that kind of noodles along until we get the hook and Jack implores the crowd to chant on queue. Great lyrics, the song is broken into two segments...the primary verses and the chant...which is where he really channels Trent. A little exploration of love-hate, coming down sqaurely in favour of love.
What You Might Have Missed: "I even love it when you're faking it/And it might sound a little strange for me to say to you/But I'm proud to be you/ And I'm slowly turning into you"
Next up another rarity...an instrumental. Instinct Blues tease with Rat tease, basically the primary riffs from both those songs repeated alternately three times. Sometimes, most times in fact, when you get these musical teases you get a song
with lyrics attached to them. Lately the Rat tease has accompanied Martyr For Your Love and for a brief moment at the end of the triumvirate pair of teases it sounds like that is what we're getting, then he breaks down into the chords for
One More Cup of Coffee.
Coffee was extremely well done and much more enjoyable than the last time I heard it, while ducking flying beer pints in Glasgow. He really nails this, the quaver in his voice is bang on.
What You Might Have Missed: Likely not a beat.
Martyr For My Love For You is fast becoming a favorite from the new record. I don't worry too much about the possible age difference between the main characters or the reason he has to be a martyr, it's just a bitter-sweet story told with an edge and from a perspective not often seen in rock. He has come close to mastering that pregnant pause before he delivers the title...tonight it was excruciatingly long and he waited as long as we could bear.
What You Might Have Missed: the tricky word dance that is the opening verse; "She was sixteen and six feet tall/ In a crowd of teenagers comin' out of the zoo /She stumbled started to slip and fall / Teeter-tottered on the top of patent leather shoes /I happened to catch her and said, /"maybe these ruby shoes are a little cumbersome for you"
Meg always gets a good reception from the audience. Deservedly so too. For all people want to argue about her drumming style I'll say this: Jack White can play solo, he can play with the Raconteurs or he can back Dylan...he'll always be great.
He'll only be The White Stripes when Meg is on the drums. She's a much stronger singer now than she was a few years ago. Gotta like the way Jack sits at the back of the stage, with his back to the audience, and lets her have her moment. He also takes the opportunity to mention it's her Virginia debut, as the Stripes are playing this state for the first time.
What You Might Have Missed: this is one creepy song.
What You Couldn't Have Missed: Meg's kinda cute when she's coy.
One verse of Do is a gift, tonight we get the second verse. Unfortunately it's coupled with/lost in a medley with Black Math, a screamfest that has it's own charm though it may not be immediately evident.
What You Might Have Missed: the angst in Do, "it doesn't matter cause my eyes are lying/and they don't have emotion/don't wanna be social, can't take it when they hate me/but i know there's nothing i can do "
What You Surely Missed: the slam at the education system in Black Math, mostly because he absolutely butchered the lyrics on this one. He repeated the first verse twice, almost catching himself the second time by putting the last couplet of the first verse in there. Hedoes nail the middle verse: "Mathematically turning the page/Unequivocally showing my age/I'm practically center stage/Undeniably earning your wage/Maybe I'll put my love on ice/And teach myself, maybe that'll be nice."
Then he spits out one line of the last verse, the wrong line, and packs it in, closing with guitar and drums.
Let's Shake Hands is another 'candy cane children' song, a single, not on any album. Well loved by one and all. Too raucous to be called filler but not that complex.
What You Might Have Missed: "oh, say my name/ oh, baby say my name/ you can do what you wanna do/ you can do it in a garbage can/say my name."
Ball and Biscuit finds Jack having some trouble with his onstage monitors. He claims it sounds like "donkey", which is a strange description for an audio sensation. He keeps on trucking though and we get a good sounding version from our side.
What You Might Have Missed: Having played this song live with Dylan he was channeling him a bit early on...dropping words from lines, either
by design or through sloppiness or distraction.
Hardest Button To Button is appropriate the day after the debut of the Simpson's.
What You Might Have Missed: I don't care to go on about the more popularly recognized tracks. It's the gems I'm looking for.
On to the encore. A fairly full first set clocking in around 60 minutes so I don't expect more than a half hour in the next segment.
The Blue Orchid tease at the start of the encore was actually a relief...not too keen on the song. An extra bonus when he broke into Screwdriver and even that was up another notch when we get the alternate opening verse. I don't know what monkey Jack was talking about but that was an enjoyable experimentation in ad-lib. He really extends this song as Meg finds a groove and elicits a wailing refrain of "got
a little feelin' goin' now" to close.
What You Might Have Missed: "what am i supposed to think?/drop a nickel in the sink/i love people like a brother now/ but i'm not gonna be their mother now/ what if someone walked up to me/ and like an apple cut right through me?/ i'm not just gonna stand their grinnin'/ i'm not the one that's sinnin'/screwdriver!"
300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues is one that has to grow on you. Tonights version might not be the one to turn the trick. It was a little slow to start though he did nail the final verse. Jack visits his fetish for three's (and red-headed women) in this song probably better suited for a concert hall rather than an arena. It's not the easiest song on the new record to replicate live so many points for effort
and outcome. The lyrics to the whole tune are substantially changed in the center portion.
What you might have missed: the screamfest that closes the song and somewhat approximates this; "But I can't help but wonder if after I'm gone will I still have these three hundred mile per hour, finger breaking, no answers makin', battered dirty hands, bee stung and busted up, empty cup torrential outpour blues...." which is where it ends as Jack leaves out the closing couplet:
"One thing's for sure: in that graveyard
I'm gonna have the shiniest pair of shoes"
He admonishes the crowd for it's silence before sucking up to them and talking to some chick in a red dress.
Seven Nation Army sees the return of the malfunctioning monitors and Jack's whine.
We Are Going To Be Friends in yet anothe 'candy cane children' song. I like it. The wife doesn't. You can decide.
Now we get to the absolute gem of the evening, Sam's Place, a Buck Owen's cover. First a little useless information. Back in '05 when I was about a year into my 'bored with Dylan' phase, Cece had completed my database of Stripes songs.
I turned my energies to producing a couple compilation of rare songs and blues covers. One of the comps was called: Jack White's Kitchen: Rare Songs Well Done, a nod to Robert Johnson's Come In My Kitchen that appears on the disc. That comp opens with a bunch of songs that contain the name 'Jack'... Jack On Fire, Everywhere I Go, I'm Jack and Black Jack Davey. I also had a song, played only once and unidentified, that came from a 2003 show. The taper called it "Oh Well", due to it's appearance throughout the song. I subtitled it Jack's Prayer, because Jack is talking to God in the song and that would make four consecutive songs with "Jack" in the title. Flash forward to Icky Thump where that song appears as Little Cream Soda. Around the Stripes boards I came across a post that posited that Ben Blackwell, a member of the Stripes camp, passed on a 'show' with song called "Jack's Prayer" that had only been done live once. Legend (if we can build it) has it that Jack liked it so much he did a slight rework and put it out.
Now one might think that was stretching it a bit but Sam's Place is also on that comp. It's likely just as rare. I don't have all the shows but I have more than a handful. If we ever get Red Death at 614 all doubt will be eradicated.
So Buck Owen's, eh? told you it was country night. This was a terrific version of the song and a real special treat. Nothing to say about this song except enjoy it as many times as you can.
A really good version of I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself, a song I'm at risk of tiring of but really enjoyed this evening.
What You Saw: a rock god.
The White Stripes
George Mason University
Disc 1/Main Set
Icky Thump>When I Hear My Name>Icky Thump
Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman
Slowly Turning into You
Instinct tease>Rat tease Medley
One More Cup of Coffee
Martyr For My Love For You
Cold, cold, night
Do >Black Math
Let's Shake Hands
Ball & Biscuit
Hardest Button to Button
Blue Orchid tease>Screwdriver (monkey version)
300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues
Seven Nation Army
We Are Going to Be Friends
I Just Don't know what to do with myself