The White Stripes: January 2004 Glasgow, Scotland

An exclusive archive from The White Stripes is now available for streaming in the app, featuring a two night stand in Glasgow from January 2004. From long time White Stripes fan Mike on this month’s ‘Third Man Thursday’ releases:

January 2004: Glasgow, Scotland

Scottish Nation Army

Just weeks after the New Years Eve show in Chicago, the band were back across the pond once more, to perform a final run of concerts in the UK and France.  These shows in Glasgow took place at the midpoint of the tour, and were the last stop before they’d be under the lights and the cameras at Blackpool.  Being of Scottish descent, Jack and Meg were back in “the homeland”, playing to audiences of 5,000 fellow Scots in the aptly-named Hall 3 of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.  On a tour where each show was a consistently excellent performance, what makes the Glasgow concerts special is that together they represent the moment when Seven Nation Army officially became an anthem.

While already on a steady path through the stadiums of Europe, the now ubiquitous “Seven Nation Army” riff had already been chanted by audiences at the band’s live shows pretty much right from the first time it was performed live. Having been released to radio just weeks before the start of the Elephant tour in February 2003, crowds quickly went from clapping in time to the riff at the opening show in Wolverhampton, to singing along to the riff at Manchester the very next night. Nearly a year later, and it’s at the first night in Glasgow where the participation from the audience would reach a kind of critical mass.  With so many versions played at the shows before this, the ones at Glasgow are different.  On the recording from the first night, you can even hear Jack’s reaction as he starts the song and the crowd of 5,000 immediately begin chanting the riff in unison, causing him to delay his entry into the first verse. The very next night, the crowd would do it again. Where other audiences may have chanted the riff or sung the lyrics to the first line before respectfully getting out of the way so as to enjoy the rest of the song, Glasgow is the moment when the audience didn’t get out of the way.  Like a Scottish war cry, the audiences here aren’t just singing along, the band and the crowd are performing the song together.  

As if the universe couldn’t possibly let this kind of moment happen without also letting its polar opposite exist within the same time and space, the triumph of the Seven Nation Army chant at Glasgow is met with an equally unique moment from the crowd, as it’s at the first show where a member of the audience throws a shoe which hits Jack square in the face during the encore of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.” Rather than let it ruin the evening, Jack responds by immediately launching into a defiant Astro and Jack the Ripper, with the audience roaring in approval in the background.  Having completely erased any impact from the incident, he then closes the show by restarting “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” not missing a beat, with the audience again right there and singing along to every word.

After that first show, in an almost too-good-to-be-true coincidence, the second performance in Glasgow just happened to take place on Burns Night, the annual celebration of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns, the author of Auld Lang Syne. One of the most recognized songs in the world, the poem that Burns wrote was originally put to a different melody, but as it spread it eventually evolved into the song now known the world over, which gets sung every year on New Year’s Eve.  As eloquent as the lyrics to that song are, many only get as far as the opening line of “Should auld acquaintance be forgot” before losing track of the words that follow, while the melody has a more permanent place in our collective consciousness, instantly recognizable from the very first notes.  At some point, after a song reaches that level of popularity, it becomes a kind of folk music, where the people singing it, or chanting it, get to decide what the song means, or how it should be sung.  Once that happens, it doesn’t really matter what the words are.  Sound familiar?

1/24/04 GlasgowScottish Exhibition and Conference CentreLISTEN NOW

Kicking off the only two-night stand of the tour to take place entirely on a weekend, the band return to Scotland with an epic show. As much as this one is all about the band’s excellent performance, it’s perhaps the audience who steal the show.  You can hear them in full force from the very beginning, singing along to lines in “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Hotel Yorba,” and even singing along to the melodies of “In the Cold, Cold Night and I Think I Smell a Rat.”  No surprise that they turn “Seven Nation Army” into a definitive moment where the sound of the crowd chanting is nearly as powerful as the sound of the band playing the song. The setlist also features multiple rarities, with “Stop Breaking Down” getting the first airing since the Livid Festival performance at Melbourne, complete with the adlib of Stones “In My Passway” by Robert Johnson. This night also gets an even more rare outing of “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket,” followed by the final live performance of “Hypnotize.”  Reflecting the intimacy and connection so present at this show, “We’re Going to Be Friends” gets dedicated to the red headed women and soccer players with long black hair in the crowd, which elicits an audible laugh from Meg.  While a shoe-throwing attendee could have otherwise spoiled such a special show by hitting Jack in the face during the encore of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” the band respond defiantly with a fantastic “Astro” and “Jack the Ripper,” before calmly returning to the song to close the show, again to full audience singalong.  

1/25/04 GlasgowScottish Exhibition and Conference CentreLISTEN NOW

Night 2, and the band put the jukebox on shuffle. The fantastic run starting with “When I Hear My Name” goes all the way through a cover of Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues,” with the line “I might look like Jacky White, but I feel like Jesse James”, into “Cannon,” which includes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Man,” “St James Infirmary,” “I Think I Smell a Rat,” and “Take a Whiff On Me” before returning to the “Cannon” solo and closing out with a single riff from “Ball and Biscuit.”  The rarities continue at this show, as an excellent “Suzy Lee” gets followed by a funny moment where Jack briefly forgets the name of the song after it, “This one is called….uh, what is this called?…Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise!” “The Hardest Button to Button” gets the always welcome “brain that felt like peanut butter” line, and just as the audience singalongs were the highlight of the first night, here it’s the singalong that Jack and Meg do together on “This Protector,” making it perhaps the very best version of this understated song that you’re likely to hear. As the band plow through the rest of the excellent set, “Offend In Every Way” jump-cuts into “You’re Pretty Good Looking,” just as the beginning of “Union Forever” cuts to “Baby Blue,” which in turn gives way to “Ball and Biscuit” and “Screwdriver” to close the main set.  Before “Seven Nation Army,” Jack declares the Scottish crowd the best in the world, with the song again featuring the now mandatory chanting from the crowd, before the band close the show with “Boll Weevil.”  Next stop, Blackpool Lights.  

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