Jack White RULEZ in White Stripes Nation Jack White, Certified Guitar Player

REVIEW: White Stripes on MTV Live

Posted by Al Barger on July 17, 2005 05:27 PM (See all posts by Al Barger)

MTV is now airing footage from a White Stripes concert dated June 1 in Brazil. It was billed as apparently part of a series called simply MTV Live. However, it was clearly not an MTV sponsored event, ie no idiot VJs or such.

It was recorded in a fancy old historical opera house. Supposedly at least, the White Stripes are the first rock group ever allowed to perform there. It was certainly a good, well excited rock and roll audience, packed to the rafters. Indeed, there were apparently thousands more surrounding the place throughout the show. They got a good moment in mid-show leaving the stage to go out on the balcony and give the gathered throng a quick verse of "We Are Going to Be Friends."

It was fine crowd, and great energy. White Stripes fans definitely should see it. Still and all, I have to give the show a somewhat mixed review.

Let's emphasize the better points, though. For starters, the White Stripes have a great bunch of songs to play. That's most of the battle right there, and that's their main virtue. Jack White is above all a songwriting SOB. His songs have melody and hooks, and real soul. Plus, he's mostly writing good driving uptempo stuff that projects very well from a stage.

However, the pure physical restrictions of the duo lineup seriously crimp the show. Their new classic album Get Behind Me Satan features only Jack and Meg, as does this live show. The obvious point of this is to generate an artistic discipline, a tight frame within which to work. Jack's keeping it real.

Surely this performance is real. But it would still be real if they had a couple more people on stage to back them up. In the studio, they have the very significant wiggle room on the duo lineup of overdubs. Jack can play all kinds of instruments. I counted guitar, marimba, mandolin, and piano in this hour.

But he can't play them all at once. This was most obviously confronted in the performance of "The Nurse." It was ultra-cool watching Jack play the marimba on which the song is built, and Meg can switch gears between drums and maracas. But then there's those critical bits of crashing guitar chords that Jack can't play simultaneously. Instead, they had some kind of just loud industrial noise that one of them is presumably cueing by foot. Not quite the same, but an interesting solution. This was probably my fave performance of the show, but then this is my favorite song on the album to begin with.

Moreover, this stage duo performance highlights Jack's limitations as a performer. It's not just that he can't play everything at once, but that trying to cover all bases causes his performance to fray pretty badly in places. You can describe this favorably as raw and immediate, but still some of these performances were significantly technically inferior.

They did real well, for one, with the "Little Ghost." Simple rhythm mandolin and two part vocals does the song justice. That works fine.

He does less well here with bigger rock songs. Being the sole guitarist with the rhythms and the leads comes across pretty rough in places. Richard Thompson can play two or three guitar parts at once while getting his nails done and talking on the phone at the same time. Jack cannot.

Jack White is rightly praised as an outstanding guitarist, but this shows his limitations. He's got more imagination than technical skill. In the studio, he can do a few takes until he gets it down, plus he doesn't have to sing at the same time.

His guitar skill is more in creating memorable lines than in playing athletic flurries of notes. You could say the same thing about Chuck Berry, for example. I'd much rather have this than the other way around, with fancy guitarists who have nothing to say.

The worst part of this show was Jack's singing. After several years of increasingly intent listening to the White Stripes, it was only watching this show that it occured to me that Jack White isn't an especially good singer. He's got feeling and a lot of personality, plus he's mostly singing things custom written to his own vocal range. In the controlled setting of a studio, he does fine. It's mostly in the compositions anyway.

But trying to project a big rock song to thousands of people while playing the fancy guitar doesn't work as well. He doesn't seem to have quite the instrument to do this effectively. Some of these vocals were ragged at best. He was particularly straining at the higher parts of the opening "Blue Orchid." He ought to have Meg sing more. She's probably a better singer than he is, from the limited evidence available.

Nonetheless, this was a fascinating performance. This band is worth the study of picking apart their performance to see what they're doing. They both have pretty strong stage presence, and it's particularly cool watching Jack play the marimba stuff.

Certainly, any White Stripes fan should see this. Further, if you were actually in the live crowd watching this show rather than analyzing it later on video, I bet it'd blow your mind.

I'll just say this probably isn't the place to get your best first introduction to the White Stripes, though. If you're not much familiar, you'd be better to start with either of their last couple of studio albums, Get Behind Me Satan or Elephant.






PHOTOS PAGE 4   Loretta Lynn and Jack White Gallery

PHOTOS PAGE 5   Meg White Gallery 1

PHOTOS PAGE 6   Meg White Gallery 2

PHOTOS PAGE 7   Meg White Gallery 3

PHOTOS PAGE 8   Meg White Gallery 4




Up against the wall, Mariah Carey!


"Seven Nation Army"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto I

"Jimmy the Exploder"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto II

"Sugar Never Tasted So Good"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto III

"You're Pretty Good Looking"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto IV

"Hello Operator"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto V

"Apple Blossom"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto VI

"Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto VII

"We're Going To Be Friends"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto VIII

"Fell in Love With a Girl"  White Stripes Nation Manifesto IX

"Hotel Yorba" White Stripes Nation Manifesto X

"There's No Home For You Here" White Stripes Nation Manifesto XI



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