The White Stripes, Zénith, Paris
Tuesday 18 October 2005
Jack White marches on in a top hat, and the first, distorted chord of his guitar brings the curtain down behind him, revealing a huge apple hovering menacingly above a tropical bay - the Garden of Eden?
It's an appropriate framing for the psychodrama to be played out across Meg's bright red drumkit. In the past, the tension between the pair seemed immediate and real. Inevitably, it's more of a show now. But when Jack sweetly intones the closing lines of Bob Dylan's "Love Sick" to Meg's face, and she deigns to hit her drum softly, for once, you can't fault the acting.
To start, Jack appears bionically attached to his guitar. Grinding out the riff to "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground", every stroke of his right hand has its corresponding jolt of the head as he moonwalks from Meg.
This year's Get Behind Me Satan album, light on guitars, proved the Stripes' ability to vary their sound within their own constraints. The swiftly recorded album was criticised for sounding undercooked, and live performance does nothing to remedy that. Ever restless, Jack is constantly experimenting with new ways to sing his songs - some of which make him sound like a small dog in pain.
But what songs they are: "Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)", "Little Ghost", "Red Rain" - to name only the cuts from Get Behind Me Satan - combine inspired tunes with wonderfully skewed takes on love and morality. Then there are the classic rockers from 2003's Elephant: "The Hardest Button To Button" and "Seven Nation Army" both set an arena of fists a-pounding.
There are still moments when it doesn't come together and the chaotic noise gets wearing. But even these seem to fit the package: unrehearsed passion and stylised performance, nostalgia and modernity, Jack's machismo and vulnerability. In rock music today, there is nothing even remotely like them.
The White Stripes tour Britain from 5 to 17 November
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