Album: The White Stripes, Under Great White Northern Lights (Third Man/XL)
Friday 19 March 2010
As the notion of concert performance retreats ever further into the pre-programmed bowels of a computer, the great live album is virtually a thing of the past.
Thank heavens, then, for Under Great White Northern Lights, The White Stripes' record of their 2007 Canadian Tour, whose greatness is attributable to how much it goes against the common practice of concert performance.
It comes as a CD/DVD package, the 16-track CD accompanied by Emmett Malloy's documentary of the tour, which saw Jack and Meg traversing the country, playing shows in every province from Ontario to Nunavut, Newfoundland to Yukon. At one point in the film, Jack White explains how their success is due in part to their deliberately making things more difficult for themselves as their career has progressed: things like still using the same guitars, with their tendency to lose tuning; placing the organ a bit further away so he has to struggle to reach it; and not having replacement plectrums in easy reach.
The amazing thing is that this simple strategy works like a charm, bringing a sense of uncertainty and spontaneity to their shows that illuminates old material. Then again, the duo have always squeezed maximum impact from minimal resources, Meg rarely straying from the simplest, most starkly dynamic of pulses while Jack wrings an extraordinary range of riffs and tortured squeals from his red fibreglass Airline guitar on songs such as "Let's Shake Hands", "Black Math" and "Icky Thump". When he takes an instrumental break, it's not so much a solo as a strangulated howl of protest, the six-string equivalent of the falsetto squawk with which he delivers "Blue Orchid" and "Let's Shake Hands". Even when switching to electric mandolin for "Little Ghost", there's an air of hysteria about the performance. By contrast, the addition of a local Nova Scotian piper to the folksy mandolin of "Prickly Thorn. But Sweetly Worn" beds the song more deeply in those roots, besting the studio version on Icky Thump.
The accompanying film is full of magical scenes, not least because of the awe-inspiring backdrops. There's a sweet segment of the couple chatting with, and playing for, Inuit elders up in Iqualit, and feasting on raw caribou meat; proud sporting of tartan kilts in Nova Scotia; and a charming sequence editing together the impromptu daytime gigs which they put on at each location – a flour mill in London, Ontario, a bowling alley in Saskatoon, a school bus in Winnipeg, etc. The overall effect is a strong affirmation of the principles of directness and immediacy which have served The White Stripes so well.
Download this Let's Shake Hands; Little Ghost; Icky Thump; Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn; Jolene; Seven Nation Army
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
- 2 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 3 Paul Scholes: Manchester City were so good against Liverpool I felt like turning the television off
- 4 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
Great British Bake Off, episode 4, review: Heat gets turned up as Iain goes into meltdown
Doctor Who kiss sparks Ofcom complaints over 'weird lesbian-lizard perv trip'
Emmys 2014: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Steven Moffat win big awards for Sherlock
Homer Simpson takes the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he does
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo, gig review: Just what everyone was hoping for
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
- < Previous
- Next >