The White Stripes
by Alex Hern
The White Stripes are an unusual band. To anyone with more than a grain of knowledge of pop culture, this is clear. Comprised of an ex-husband and wife who call each other brother and sister, they are an incredibly cultish band who somehow manage to repeatedly break into the charts again and again. On one level, they have been playing the same song for ten years now (witness the similarity between Jimmy the Exploder and Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine) and yet, every album seems to be more innovative and fresh than the last, partly thanks to the growing number of instruments – from just guitar and drums, piano was added in De Stijl, marimba in Get Behind Me Satan, and synth (and bagpipes) in Icky Thump.
Last Sunday, I saw them live for the fourth time at the O2 wireless festival (Yes, I am a fan. Possibly a fanatic). It should be noted that, for all its allusions to festival status, wireless is nothing of the sort. Located in London’s Hyde Park, it crams five stage into the space that a reasonable festival would place one, so that as well as being able to see across the entire ground, you also enjoy the other stages’ soundsystems leaking into what you can hear. There is no camping, and they sell far more day tickets than weekend ones, ensuring a large amount of men in suits wandering around with their ties in their pockets.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t produce a little magic. This was the White Stripes’ first real gig in the UK in over two years, and their largest ever, and boy did they know it. With a set list that spanned every single album, including just three from their latest, the entire thing was for the people. Save for their steadfast refusal to play Fell In Love With A Girl, their wasn’t a hit left unturned. But as ever, the duo approached it differently from other bands. First it took Jack well over a minute to play the opening four bars of I Think I Smell A Rat, pausing first to tune his guitar, then to talk to meg, then just to take a stroll around the stage. Next, he (forcefully) turned I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself into a crowd singalong by simply refusing to sing any part except the chorus. It was then that we started to realise.
They were teasing us. Their only major gig in the UK, and they were relaxed enough to perform a greatest hits set, and play jokes on the audience.
Who gives a shit about promoting the album, eh?
Some White Stripes rarities for you. The first, Lafayette Blues, was (I believe) released as just 250 7″s some time just after the first album. Although it later turned up as a Fell In Love With A Girl B-side, its still a song that not many people have heard.
The second is probably rarer still, it being an acoustic version of Fell In Love With A Girl. I’m not sure when they stopped playing that song live, but it certainly hasn’t happened for a long time. And I’ve never heard an acoustic set from them.
Finally, there is a live version of the Denial Twist, from their 2005 tour of the UK. This specific one is a piano version, from the Glasgow leg.
The White Stripes – Lafayette Blues [MP3 Removed]
The White Stripes – Fell In Love With a Girl (Acoustic Version) [MP3 Removed]
The White Stripes – The Denial Twist (Live from Glasgow, 14/11/2005) [MP3 Removed]