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October 04, 2005 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-04

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

ARTS

46

WHITE STUPES
RENEW OUR FAITH
IN MUSIC
By Alexandra Jones
Daily Arts Editor

The block-long line that stretched outside
downtown Detroit's Masonic Temple The-
atre Saturday evening hummed with the
anticipation of Jack White's homecoming.
A cross-section of the
fans who'd contributed
to the Stripes' success The White
at home and abroad Stripes
was there to welcome Saturday, Oct. 1
them: MTV viewers
and Clear Channel lis- Masonic Temple
Theatre
teners of all ages who
caught on with "Seven
Nation Army"; chaperoned 14-year-old girls
who helped their latest album, Get Behind
Me Satan, debut at No. 4 on the Billboard
charts; Detroit music fans and indie kids
who helped start a candy-colored phenom-
enon half a decade ago.
You're Gonna Need a Bigger Room
Someofusremember atime when nobody
knew who The White Stripes were. This was
before hipsters, this was before good music
had become a trend, irrevocably associated
with white belts and bad haircuts. But that
was bullshit, of course; really good music
doesn't stay under the radar for long, and
all it took to get in on the secret was $14
and a pair of open ears. White Blood Cells
is such a brilliant album that we should've
known we couldn't keep it to ourselves. But
most us weren't old enough to remember
when David Geffen bought grunge, and
Modest Mouse wouldn't lend their music to
a minivan commercial for afew years.
Everyone files into the imposing, laby-
rinthine hall. Fans drift in to the sound of
pop up-and-comer Brendan Benson. Sure,,
he's another Detroiter, but Benson's perfor-
mance is a clean and tight; his set of easy-to-
like songs goes by quickly. Two trim-suited
stagehands, faces hidden under black fedo-
ras, strike the set, and the Stripes' tableau
begins to take shape. Dichromatic silhou-
ettes of palm fronds cover cloth-draped col-
umns; a backdrop depicts the band's latest
symbol, a white apple, rising over a body of
water. Red-and-white timpani, organ and
marimba appear; Jack's three guitars lean
up against the three red-and-white cabinets
the way miniatures might sit in a room of
a dollhouse. White-painted palms, the kind
you'd place in a corner of your living room,
flank the stage.
Everybody's Reaction Is Changing You
So when Elephant - an album we had
salivated at the thought of, an album that
had the dual misfortune of being White's
first misstep and spawning "Seven Nation
Army," the band's first mainstream single
- hit stores, we tried to be happy. We were

glad, we told ourselves, that people had
finally caught on to this awesome band,
that they were getting credit for giving us
three fantastic albums. But it sounded like
something was missing: The blues infu-
sion that had fueled White's songwriting
identity so well seemed to outgrow its
inspirational role to become shtick, to
substitute for the kind of innovation that
marked White Blood Cells and De Stijl.
And then Inoticed that none of my friends
really listened to their White Stripes
records any more, and the next thing we
knew, Jack was getting into car accidents
with Bridget fucking Jones. Fans can be
fickle, demanding and judgmental - but
I think a lot of young music aficionados
felt as though the band's albums were
being made for someone else.
All the lights drop. We're prepped for
the performance with a few seconds of
dark - and then, wearing what looks like
full Knights of Columbus regalia, Jack
emerges. Meg follows; she's got on the
same Captain Hook-style hat but wears her
usual hot-girl leather pants and tight t-shirt.
Jack slings the Airliner over his shoulder.
Meg takes her place at her set, sticks ready.
Their eyes lock.
The Nurse Should Not Be the One Who
Puts Salt in Your Wounds
A lot of us didn't dare hope that Get
Behind Me Satan would be the step for-
ward that it is. I know for a fact that most
of us didn't warm up to it right away,
and not just because it doesn't sound like
one of those kick-you-in-the-face-great
albums on the first few listens. The qual-
ity of its guitar-heavy tracks was reas-
suring. The cool, marimba-based "The

Nurse" reaffirmed White's songwriting
skills and brought his own ideas back into
sharp focus - at the same time, the quiet
artistry of this one track raised more real
questions than all of Elephant did. But
Jack White's best music has always been
quid pro quo - you get out of it what you
put into it.
Same Boy You've Always Known
As if to reach out to his hometown audi-
ence, which welcomes the band onstage
with a roar that momentarily blocks out
their music, White launches into the sim-
ple, dirty "Let's Shake Hands," a single
originally released in his Detroit days. He
courts Meg, singing into the mic by her
set; the next moment, he's playing to the
girls jumping up and down by the stage.
"Let's Shake Hands" becomes Get Behind
Me Satan's opener, "Blue Orchid," which
slides into the anthemic riff of the haunt-
ing "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground."
Meg smacks the skins with her usual joyful
toughness while the intensity with which
Jack plays knocks off his admiral's head-
gear. His costume spoiled, he takes a lap
around the back of the stage and removes
the coat of his uniform, whips it offstage
and out of sight and charges up the center
of the stage with the defiance and determi-
nation of a bullfighter.
The first of two renditions of Elephant's
coolly sexual "Ball and Biscuit" comes
next; White alternates between seductive
appeal and his distinctive strangled, man-
gled whine. He brings down a near-10-
minute solo, thumping low on the E string
and then flaring up again with unpredict-
able shrieks on the high strings. In 15 min-
utes of playing, White has shown that he
doesn't plan on moving away from guitar

- or the shards of asphalt in his sound
that mark him as Detroit born and bred
- anytime soon, despite the marimba
waiting behind him onstage.
After banging out "St. James Infirmary
Blues" on piano and singing with all the
earthy elegance of a '30s cabaret singer,
White thrashed through the rough beats of
"Little Bird," returned to the organ bench
still wearing his guitar and played both
parts to "I Want to Be the Boy." One true
highlight of the performance was "Jolene,"
originally a Dolly Parton tune; White chan-
nelled the speaker's pain through his guitar
while singing the line "Please don't take
him just because you can," almost inau-
dibly. Meg went to the front of the stage
to sing "Cold Cold Night"; later, she sang
"Passive Manipulation," which briefly seg-
ued into "The Rat" before closing the half
with "The Hardest Button to Button."
A tense, disjunct "Instinct Blues" opens
the impossibly long encore, but the perfor-
mance has yet to come to its true climax:
White belts out the "Citizen Kane"-
inspired "The Union Forever," adding a
verse in a voice immediate as bleeding as
he thrashes about with his hair in his face.
Finally, White takes up mallets and
begins the exotic, floating marimba intro to
"The Nurse." Meg makes loud splashes on
her cymbals for the hits while Jack stomps
a strategically placed pedal that releases
feedback from his electric guitar. After
"We're Going to Be Friends," "Red Rain,"
"Forever for Her Is over for Me" and a ver-
sion of "Hotel Yorba" that has fans on the
main floor dancing and clapping, White
asks us to sing along with a line in "Boll
Weevil" - "He's lookin' for a home."
White has made it clear that he knows just
where - and who - his home is.

FOREST CASEY/DAILY
Jack White
and Meg
White perform
at Detroit's
Masonic Tem-
ple Theatre on
Oct. 1 as part
of a three-night
stint in their
hometown.

S. =: A

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