To describe the Detroit duo the White Stripes as "hotly tipped" is something of an understatement. Their first British tour has generated such excitement that label bosses hoping to snap them up have even paid for their own tickets. Music-business PRs have been seen in the mosh-pit, and, unbelievably, journalists have actually been spotted buying their records.
Understandably, too, for the brother-and-sister team of Jack and Meg White – he plays guitar and sings; she drums – are quite deserving of such hysteria. The persistent rumours about their true relationship – are they a former couple posing as siblings? – do nothing to deflect the fascination. It's not as if they do much to deny the stories (last night they encored with a version of "Not the Marrying Kind" while gazing conspiratorially at each other), though it appears that a joke played on a hack in Michigan has taken on a life of its own. They're more John and Joan Cusack than Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine anyway, if you get my drift.
They're also the best new rock act to have passed this way in years. By returning to the blues fundamentals that long ago inspired the likes of the Stones and Led Zeppelin, they make the old sound new and the new sound old, as their brilliant interpretation of Blind Willie McTell's "Lord, Send Me an Angel", its lyrics customised for "Mr Jack White", followed by their own instant hoedown of "Hotel Yorba", ably demonstrates.
Yet they're not simply revivalists. Pop songs of the quality of "Truth Doesn't Make a Noise" and "Hello Operator", both from their second and arguably best album, De Stijl, are hardly common these days. Jack White is an astonishing guitarist, too, capable of playing at two tempos at once with his picking hand, notably on a fantastic version of Son House's ancient blues "Death Letter", while the slightly built Meg pounds the drums, huge sticks hitting snare and cymbal simultaneously. You just can't believe that two people could make so much noise and still leave space in the music.
Then again, they're hardly inexperienced. In the US they're enough of a draw to have recently shared billing on a late-night chat show with the unlikely pairing of P Diddy and Henry Kissinger (wouldn't you have just loved to be in the green room for that meeting of minds?) without signing to a major; while here, their third perfectly packaged album, White Blood Cells, has sold several thousand on import in a couple of weeks. No wonder they can afford to blow out press calls to meet with eager record companies all offering them briefcases full of used notes. They can do no wrong. At this moment in time, the White Stripes are the best live act on the planet.Reuse content