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The White Stripes
The Fillmore at Irving Plaza, or something
By Rob Harvilla
A dear friend of mine theorizes that Def Leppard’s Hysteria ranks among the greatest rock albums ever made due to the forced simplicity of, uh, having a drummer with one arm. Such an impediment forced poor Rick Allen to play uncluttered, unpretentious, almost childlike beats that resonated deeply with our most primal, carnal desires—pouring sugar on each other, etc. “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” as Thoreau put it; “Armageddon It,” as Def Leppard sagely responded.
Onstage, forced by physical laws of nature to generate only as much racket as two people with two hands apiece are capable of, the White Stripes do so splendidly Armageddon It. I’m with this guy on the bizarre, unwieldly Icky Thump. Disturbing cameos by bagpipes and mariachi horns. As cluttered and airless as the mansion they raid for junk they can steal and resell on the tailor-made-for-critical-psychoanalysis “Rag and Bone.” “Meh,” as Thoreau put it. And yet, and yet, when Jack lit up “Catch Hell Blues” Tuesday night, that vicious slide riff uncaged from its pirated MP3 and bleeding through amps that go to 14 or 15 at least as Meg (certainly Rick Allen’s closest modern analogue) bashing aloofly along… let’s just say you suddenly remember what the fuss is about.
Fabulous show, and I say this after they aborted Dolly Parton’s angst-ridden “Jolene”— easily the best of their look-how-sweet-we-are covers, perfectly suited for Jack’s histrionic candy-corn bluesman pathos—after 45 seconds on a whim so he could do the whole “Hi I’m Jack and this is my big sister Meg” routine. Wherein he launched instead into “Hotel Yorba,” the sort of insanely joyful preschool stomp the Stripes can’t/won’t dabble in too much these days, sending the Irving/Fillmore/whatever crowd, which had run a desperate gauntlet of have-nots offering $200 for a ticket outside just to get in here, into spasms of ecstasy worth considerably more. We were enjoying ourselves, is what I’m saying. For two hours, solid. Jack shrieked through “Blue Orchid,” “The Union Forever,” and most viscerally, the mighty “Ball & Biscuit” while indulging in suitably loony stage banter (“Oh, you’re from Spin magazine? I’m from Spin magazine too!”). Meg sidled up front to coo “In the Cold Cold Night,” evidently sending Brooklyn Vegan commenters into Meatballs-ian paroxysms of sexual desperation and inarticulation. Climactically, another look-how-sweet-we-are cover—Dylan’s “Blackjack Davey,” Ms. Parton’s equal in the lovelorn pathos department, and another perfect vehicle for the Stripes’ still-magnificent junkyard playground viscera. Much sugar was poured on us.