An exclusive archive from The White Stripes are now available for streaming in the nugs.net app, featuring a performance from 2003 at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA. From The White Stripes’ archivist Ben Blackwell on this month’s ‘Third Man Thursday’ release:
The return from the finger injury. While a shorter set overall (about 1 hour and 13 minutes from start to finish), there is excellent enthusiasm here, and even a few debuts as well. This is the first show to feature the “That’s what I’m gonna do” adlib in “Seven Nation Army”, the first to feature a quote from the song Evil by Howlin Wolf, and the first to feature a cover of “Man” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who would be joining the tour a few days later in Seattle on 9/16. This show also features an acapella performance of the song “I Got Stripes” by Johnny Cash, who had passed away the day before, as the lead-in to “Death Letter.” While it had only been 9 weeks since Jack’s finger was broken, the only real sign of the injury here is the abrupt aborting of “Offend In Every Way”, which itself isn’t all that unusual, as they were known to jump from one song to another all the time. While there’s no reason given for the pivot away from the song here, a week later in Las Vegas on 9/20 Jack would again abort the song, revealing the inability to play the D minor chord as the reason. This would also explain why “Jolene” (which also relies on D minor) would be absent for most of the September tour, not returning to the set until San Diego on 9/25. As the setlists would show, the September leg would be a progressive return to the stage, with each performance getting additional songs from the earlier Elephant live set added back in.
Having been off the road for 2 months, if there is any rustiness here it’s mainly heard in some of the missed lyrics throughout the set, as opposed to anything instrumental or anything in the vocals. Jack hits all the right notes here, just misses a lyric here and there and adlibs through it where needed. The pivot away from “Offend In Every Way” results in a similarly abbreviated quote from “Isis”, which stops after a few rushed/hybrid verses, including the rarely performed verse 7 (“Pyramids embedded in ice”). In the encores, Jack starts “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise” on the keyboards, similar to the versions from Pomona/Chicago/Detroit Jun-Aug 2002, where he starts on the Rhodes and goes to the guitar midway through. Here, he does a verse, but then goes silent while he continues on the keys before finding his way back into the next verse. But while the finger may have been injured and some of the lyrics missed, his vocals and the energy are in great form here. A highlight at this show is the run starting with “Cannon”, which goes through the usual “John the Revelator” interlude and ends on the familiar last line of “Evil!” before going into an unheard riff where he debuts lines from the song Evil by Howlin Wolf. So, the word “Evil!” sets up the song “Evil.” Nice. This then segues into “Cool Drink Of Water Blues” (another Howlin’ Wolf quote) and transitions seamlessly into an excellent “Ball and Biscuit”, which features soloing played as effortlessly as any version you’d have heard pre-injury. A few songs later and that “Offend”/”Isis” attempt gets more than made up for by Jack launching into “Let’s Shake Hands”, which includes the debut of the YYYs “Man” and a unique version of “Pick a Bale of Cotton”, with Jack doing what can be described as a low-end “burp” sound into the mic as a counterpoint on the lines “Me and *burp* pick a bale of cotton”, before some nice whammy soloing to close out the song and the main set. The encores kick off with “Seven Nation Army”, featuring the first appearance of the “that’s what I’m gonna do” adlib. While the band had been off the road, the popularity of the song had of course continued to rise, with the Berkeley crowd heard going nuts in the background the moment the first note is played. While “Little Room”/”Union Forever” are a familiar duo here – “Little Room” gets a heavy delivery here and “Union” gets a clean intro – a flip-flop of the way the songs were usually paired up, with “Little Room” typically serving as the quieter set up for a bombastic entrance into “Union.” And “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise” is a nice addition to the set, even with the missed lyrics, being the first performance since 2002. All tied up with a sincere shoutout to San Francisco as “the first city to like us” setting up “Boll Weevil” to close out the show.
A great start to the September leg, likely played short to make sure they didn’t overdo it on the first night back. Even though the finger may have still been injured, the vocals and energy were in great shape, and the band would be quick to ramp back up.
Hotel Yorba, I Think I Smell a Rat, Screwdriver, Love Sick, I Fought Piranhas, Astro, Jack the Ripper, I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman, St James Infirmary, Lord Send Me An Angel, and Hello Operator would all return to the set for the next performance on 9/15 in Vancouver.
Little Bird, Let’s Build a Home, Goin’ Back to Memphis, Fell In Love With a Girl, Lafayette Blues, and Sugar Never Tasted So Good would be added at Seattle 9/16.
Wasting My Time, Look Me Over Closely, Take A Whiff On Me and Small Faces would signal the “return to normal” at Portland 9/17, along with Motherless Children at Denver 9/19, setting up the Las Vegas and Los Angeles shows.
The return of Jolene and Same Boy You’ve Always Known at San Diego on 9/25 would complete the recovery, and with a closeout show in Mesa on 9/26, they’d be off to New Zealand and Australia, where the setlists would be taken a few steps further.
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Three exclusive archives from The White Stripes are now available for streaming in the nugs.net app, featuring performances from Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen during a three-night run in May of 2003. From The White Stripes’ archivist Ben Blackwell on this month’s ‘Third Man Thursday’ releases:
Having survived the all-eyes-on-them April tour in support of the release of Elephant, the band kicked off the European leg in May with a three day journey through Scandinavia.
It didn’t get much attention at the time, but the Elephant touring cycle was actually supposed to start in March, with a secret performance at SXSW. With that show canceled after Meg broke her arm, and the album’s release pulled-in by two weeks due to online leaks, April became a tightly packed end-to-end event. Pretty much every one of the performances that month had an additional occasion to go along with it, like an insanely-curated showcase. From the release of the album on April 1st and the 5-star review in Rolling Stone, to the tour kickoff in Wolverhampton on the day Elephant went to number 1 in the UK, to the debut of the video for “Seven Nation Army” – where you can catch a glimpse of the cast on Meg’s left arm, to the radio broadcast from London – the first time that many fans would get to hear the new songs live, and then back stateside for the hometown shows in Detroit, to performing with Loretta Lynn in New York, the afternoon club show and evening radio broadcast from Boston, an unprecedented 4 night residency on Late Night with Conan O’Brien performing to an audience of millions each night, to the iconic photoshoot with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, to the one-shot-on-goal at Coachella back when the festival was a single weekend – as openers for the reunion of Iggy and the Stooges no less, and then finishing off with back-to-back nights in San Francisco “the first city to like us” where a fan would make good on that history by throwing an elephant squeeze toy onstage that Jack would keep on his keyboards throughout the rest of the Elephant tour (which you can still see in Under Blackpool Lights), and then a final stop coming back down to earth with a low-key club show in San Diego on April 30th. Just as soon as the month would come to a close, the band would head right back to England for a one-off festival slot on May 4th, Elephant would be certified Gold on May 9th, and they would be off to Scandinavia to start the trek across Europe.
To get a sense of just how unique these shows are, look no further than the way the run starts, with Jack taking to the stage at the appropriately-named Cirkus in Stockholm with lines from Arthur Brown’s “Fire”: “I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you fire!”. Hell yes.
These shows feel a lot like a residency, except instead of being 3 nights at the same venue, it’s 3 days across 3 countries. They are breaking in new ideas, debuting songs, and stretching the sets longer – culminating with the show in Copenhagen, the longest they had ever done by that point. This is the sound of the band in the Elephant workshop.
While these performances each have their own character, there is also a common thread across the three nights via the introduction of the song “Mr Cellophane” from the musical Chicago. A small addition to an already varied set, serving as a vaudeville counterpoint to the sinister blues of “Take a Whiff on Me” introduced in April. While a natural fit, there is also a bit of symbolism in the choice. A song about a man who feels invisible, performed by a band that was quite literally everywhere at the time. The performance of “Mr Cellophane” at these shows would get a different rendition each night, fitting with the feel of each show. The opening night in Stockholm gets the live debut, performed as a single verse and chorus sung with the keyboards. The second night in Oslo gets an additional verse, with the vocals getting a looser and more energetic delivery, and the third night in Copenhagen gets an unique acapella version – like the setlist that night, stretched out for maximum effect. There is an embarrassment of riches here. In addition to the debut of “Mr Cellophane” and the first known performance of Little Richard’s “Ooh! My Soul” since the Jack White and The Bricks show in 1999, Stockholm is a powerhouse run-through of the live set, complete with a shout out to local heroes The Hives – via a quote of their song “Main Offender” during “Astro” and “Jack the Ripper.” Oslo gets the live debut of “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine” alongside brutal versions of “Death Letter” and “One More Cup of Coffee” both nearly collapsing in a fury of out of tune glory. Copenhagen brings the full “Razzle Dazzle” via a stunning 36 song set, consolidating the ideas from the previous two nights and serving as a benchmark for the shows to come.
There’s perhaps no better advertisement for these shows than the poster that originally accompanied them, featuring a circus monkey bashing away at the band’s instruments. Equal parts playful innocence and unpredictable mayhem, nicely foreshadowing the performances themselves. For as much as one could gush over the setlists and the one-of-a-kind moments here, the shows are made all that much better when you realize how loose they are. A skipped lyric here, a false start there, a guitar out of tune. And just like the monkey on that poster, look at how much fun they’re having.
Later in the year, the band would sit down for an interview with David Dye on NPR’s World Café. Seek out the full interview, and you’ll be treated to an in-studio performance of “Mr Cellophane.” You’ll also hear this quote from Jack, a guiding principle for the ages: “It’s like when you don’t wanna do something perfect, it’s like trying to be an anti-perfectionist. It’s really perfect by not trying to be perfect.”
Stockholm – May 13, 2003 From the unique opener of lines from Arthur Brown’s “Fire” to the “Stockyard, Stockhouse, Stockholm!” introduction to the audience, and the debut of “Mr Cellophane” from the musical Chicago, the enthusiasm here is off the charts. Listen to the off-mic yells from Jack when the guitar cuts out during the intro to “Seven Nation Army” before coming back in with a snarl, or the shout of “Alright Meg!” to kick off “Let’s Shake Hands,” which features “Clarabella” and a brief quote from Little Richard’s “Lucille” before segueing into “Ooh My Soul”, the only known performance by the Stripes, and the first since the Jack White and the Bricks shows in 1999. After a mic-drop in “John The Revelator” something falls onto the keyboards, holding down a note that carries over into “Ball and Biscuit”, where Jack uses the error to his advantage by tuning his Airline to pitch. Even with that technical issue, the version of “Biscuit” here is still unique, as it’s the first to feature the riff from Howling Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”, which would also get thrown in the next night and would feature periodically throughout the rest of the band’s live career. There is also the playful “Did anybody make any mistakes today?” exchange, a nod back to shows in the early days when Jack would engage in similar dialogue with the audience. Look out for the insertion of lyrics from the Hives “Main Offender” during “Astro” and “Jack the Ripper” and the post-show shoutout to both the Hives and Sahara Hotnights. An excellent start to the tour.
Oslo – May 14, 2003 With a warm “Hello Norway! My name is Jack, and this is my big sister Meg on the drums, from Southwest Detroit, and we think you’re pretty good looking!” the surprises continue. This show gets the first live performance of “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine”, played as if it had been in the set for years. “Mr Cellophane” again gets an airing, with a second verse added. “Ball and Biscuit” again gets the quote from “Smokestack Lightning”, with a third person switch-up in the lyrics with “Jack White’s strength is ten fold!” “Hotel Yorba” also gets a unique reference to a “dirty old road in Grand Rapids Michigan!”. Meg had a cold during this run of shows, and just makes it to the last lines of “In the Cold Cold Night” before giving a polite apology “you’ll have to forgive my cold!” Adding to just how intimate this gig is, this may be the only show to end the main set with “We’re Going to Be Friends”, complete with Jack asking the crowd “Are we friends yet Norway?” before joking “How about that Meg? You thought you didn’t have any friends!”. Matching this warmth is a good bit of chaos. Listen to “Death Letter” going full self-destruct into a storm of out of tune feedback, Jack going full scream battling the Airline at the end of “One More Cup of Coffee” – making it one of the best live renditions of the song, and “Cannon” getting an insertion of “St. James Infirmary” with a fantastic extended guitar solo section before going straight into “Boll Weevil” to close out yet another excellent show.
Copenhagen – May 15, 2003 A special show to close out the run. Even the intro music is unique here, as the band take the stage to the sound of “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man being played over the house speakers: “Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a ‘comin, now I don’t know how I could wait to see. It could be something for someone who is no relation, but it could be something special just for me…” This is the longest show that the band had ever done up until this point. We get yet another variation on “Mr Cellophane”, this time as a unique acapella rendition between “You’re Pretty Good Looking” and “Hello Operator.” Instead of “Death Letter”, there is the combination of “Stop Breaking Down” into “Little Bird.” “Look Me Over Closely” gets a one-time quote of “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago as an opener, and this show features both “Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine” and “Hypnotize” – one of the few to feature both songs in the same show, alongside covers of “Clarabella”, “Small Faces”, and an absolutely stunning rendition of “Five String Serenade” by Arthur Lee as a bookend to an excellent “Offend In Every Way.” There are songs spanning all 4 albums here, played one after another after another. By the time they get to “Boll Weevil”, Jack gives a laugh, acknowledging “This is the last verse of the last song of the night!” Unlike the previous two nights, there isn’t much between song banter here. Not much else to say here that the music doesn’t already make crystal clear. A truly inspired performance that sets the bar for the rest of the Elephant tour. An absolute must hear.
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Exclusive to nugs.net, this month’s Third Man Thursday release brings us The White Stripes’ October 14, 2003 performance from Melbourne. From long-time Stripes enthusiast and expert Mike:
Coming on the heels of last month’s premiere of Seven Nation Army at Wolverhampton, this show in Melbourne is the return to the city where the riff was first played, during that infamous soundcheck at the Corner Hotel. This time around, the band are upgraded from a Hotel to a Palace.
This show takes place during the underrated New Zealand-Australia leg of the Elephant tour. The natural point of comparison for this show in Melbourne is the Sydney performance at the Enmore Theatre a few days earlier on 10/10. Whereas that show captured the band out to wow the audience, the energy is at times frantic, with Jack going song to song almost recklessly. If Sydney is the getaway car barreling down the alleyway, crashing through the trashcans, Melbourne is the other side of that coin: the same car, the same driver, but why not take the long way home?
Like Sydney, this show in Melbourne is also a marathon set, clocking in at around 1hr 40min. But whereas Sydney hits most of the familiar numbers from the Elephant live repertoire, with no time to stretch out on any one song too long, this set at Melbourne is less about the inclusion of this song or that song, and more about how the songs themselves get performed just a little bit different. Throughout the set, there are many unique change-ups and extra doses of improvisation here, making for an excellent and relaxed performance
Many of the surprises here are subtle. Listen as Jack moves to the keyboards for the first verse of Dead Leaves, or how I Want To Be the Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart gets an extended outro in place of the final verse. Other surprises are more obvious, such as Death Letter getting stretched out to over 10 minutes, including a unique rapid-fire delivery of Motherless Children and adlibs at the end of the song proclaiming “Your mother was a mother now!”, before wrapping with a quote from Little Bird. Cannon gets a unique whispered vocal delivery for the opening verses, before switching out the John The Revelator section with improvised lines inviting the audience to “come into my home” for “something you ain’t never had before”. The fourth wall gets broken again during Look Me Over Closely, with the line “every girl in this room, I’m singing this one to you” before ending the song with a saturated burst on the guitar. The Hardest Button to Button also gets an extended intro and an adlib about a brain that “felt like Pea-nut butter!”. The same songs already played many times on the tour, done just a little different here.
And then there’s the truly unique moments, which includes the where-the-hell-did-that-come-from performance of Caravan by Duke Ellington. Broken Bricks also gets the first known performance since 2002, with yet more of those whispered vocals and a “slow version” treatment, before setting up an excellent Small Faces and yet another one-time-only cover, this time Love Me by Elvis Presley – complete with adlibbed Buddy Holly style vocals. So yeah, not your typical Elephant show. Other nuggets include Jack playing some lines from the Peter Gunn Theme during Jack the Ripper, the audience singing the verses during I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quote from Wichita Lineman during Seven Nation Army, before closing out with Boll Weevil to bring this one home.
Exclusive to nugs.net, this month’s Third Man Thursday release brings us The White Stripes April 7, 2003 performance from Wolverhampton. From archivist Ben Blackwell:
Twenty years ago, give or take a couple of weeks, the White Stripes purchased a Random Access Digital Audio Recorder. RADAR for short. It cost $8000. When recently asked about the impetus behind the move, long-time Stripes manager Ian Montone said…
“Many artists I respected – musically and from a business standpoint – always recorded their shows. Frank Zappa specifically. We wanted to implement something similar given we already owned our studio master recordings. So it made sense to record and own everything the band (and Jack) did moving forward. Live shows included. Because every show was different. There was no setlist. Everything was special. We wanted to capture that for posterity’s sake – hence the RADAR.”
In terms of the archival footprint of the White Stripes, the importance of this decision cannot be overstated. Previously, sanctioned live recordings were largely limited to whenever I was there AND the club had a cassette deck wired to the soundboard. With the end result being a static two-channel board recording subject to the whims and preferences of a house sound engineer’s real-time mixing, it left a lot to be desired.
For example…my obligations as a mediocre Detroit college journalism student with a scholarship meant that for the entirety of 2002 (a year the Stripes played nearly 100 shows) I was present for a mere seven performances, two of which were purely coincidental as my band the Dirtbombs were slotted as the warm-up act.
Thus, the number of proprietary live recordings from 2002 in the archive? Shit, barely any. I count one, give or take one.
But come 2003 the White Stripes would have the raw masters of their on-stage inputs digitally preserved. This gave the band the ability, after-the-fact, to have whomever they desired to properly and precisely mix every live show they performed, regardless of whether or not I was there to slide the sound guy a tape that night. This was $8000 well-spent.
Thank god for RADAR.
The April 7th, 2003 gig in Wolverhampton was the first show the White Stripes recorded with this digital system. More importantly, this show is the kick-off to the Elephant world tour, approximately 14 months of whirlwind travel, Whirlwind Heat, sold out shows, not sold out ethics, finger breakings, Grammy takings, global gallivanting and “oh oh oh oh oh ohhhh oh” chanting.
The performance, shockingly, has not been heard in ANY form since the amps powered down that evening two decades ago. I guess no one in Wolverhampton was doing surreptitious audience recordings at the time. Photos of the gig? I found none. Concert poster? I’ve never seen one. Please, prove me wrong. I welcome it. Contemporaneous accounts of the evening? A dumb brief write-up from the NME, one slightly more informative from the Independent and that’s it.
As Jack humbly tells the crowd that Elephant hit number 1 on the charts this day…the gig…you’d think there’d be more proof that it really existed. Things here feel big. They seem important. A chance whiff of greatness. The weight of it all is palpable on the recording.
So the wait to hear this show is most definitely worth it. The first-ever public outing of a clutch of songs off Elephant is the definition of historic.
The fact that Meg switches to her snare hits late on the first verse of “Seven Nation Army”? I LOVE it. Perhaps the only time ever she didn’t 100% nail that song. Jack’s nerves evident on “In The Cold, Cold Night”? Endearing. The premature ending of “The Hardest Button To Button”? A combo of “wow” and “holy shit” said in wonderment.
These are by no means the best versions of ANY of these songs. But they are precious for what they presage…the eventual enshrinement of said tunes in the bombastic canon of a band well on its way to their peak form.
Beyond that…the first time ever covering Public Nuisance’s “Small Faces.” What a moment! And the extra special treat of what we’ve titled here “Talking Pillow By My Side Blues.” An improvised song done in the “talking blues” style pioneered by Chris Bouchillon, appropriated by Woody Guthrie and yet further popularized by Bob Dylan, “Pillow” is one of the more realized extemporaneous songs to emerge from a White Stripes live show of any era. Which is fortunate to have been captured here, as it never shows up again, anywhere, ever.
Thank god for RADAR.
Though I must stress, the method was not perfect. As The White Stripes front of house engineer Matthew Kettle would say “Despite being the best thing we could get at the time, the RADAR was occasionally unreliable, and as we weren’t carrying a sound desk everywhere at that point, not every show was recorded successfully.”
With that in mind, there’s a handful of songs that failed to be recorded in Wolverhampton. “Dead Leaves” and “Black Math” and “I Think I Smell A Rat” seem to be songs from the top of the set lost to the ether on this night. Which isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things, considering there’s an entire WEEK where Kettle’s best efforts were thwarted by the finicky digital interface and thus, we’re left only with our imagination and collective recollection trying to discern what happened at half dozen shows in June of 2003.
Otherwise the RADAR material was immediately put to use…the accompanying audio to “Black Math” live vid from the Masonic Temple, the Berlin soundcheck b-side recording of “St. Ides of March” and the promo-only triple LP Live In Las Vegas are all proper public-facing mobilizations of these recordings. Third Man didn’t even attempt to crack these suckers open for another ten years until prepping the Nine Miles From The White City live LP included in Vault Package 16 from 2013.
At that point, upon handing mix engineer Vance Powell the necessary drives, he audibly winced.
“What?” I asked him, perplexed and, let’s face it, ignorant.
“These drives have moving parts. Good luck getting anything off of them,” Vance replied.
To which point I said “You gotta be fucking kidding me.”
“No, I’m not,” he said. “These things are ten years old.”
I learned a very crucial lesson at that moment…that any digital format is only reliable for a couple years before it’s usurped by something more streamlined and less cumbersome – OR – it just stops working. The need to constantly update and re-archive digital files is downright maddening. There is no long-term, futureproof, failsafe digital carrier. Ever. It would be another five years before all drives were properly transferred to a relatively stable LTO format. And even then, not without RADAR drive “G” requiring a $1761.60 “clean room” recovery to save seven shows that would have otherwise just disappeared.
It sounds comical now, but wearing my “businessman” hat I broke out the calculator to amortize the proposal…deciding with an almost embarrassingly “duh” quickness that $251 per show was a reasonable enough fee to reclaim those ephemeral moments. Because there’s spirit in all these recordings. The unforeseen nostalgia of memories yet to be uncovered. Instances where the power of an assemblage of strangers in a room together can divine a psychically shared experience. Time that mattered to someone. Moments could now last forever,
One of those moments, cast off with barely any consideration, a seconds-long thought formulated into action in a more simple manner, appeared when Jack White signed the venue guest book after the show.
“Thanks Civic, you made my day and I shan’t forget it.”
And because of a wise $8000 investment made nearly a generation ago, you won’t either.
Exclusive to nugs.net, this month’s Third Man Thursday release brings us The White Stripes June 30, 2007 performance from Edmonton. From archivist Ben Blackwell:
Another entry from the ’07 Icky Thump tour, the middle of this set features a mind-bending run of short, quick song teases all in a row (“I Think I Smell A Rat” to “Cannon” to “Wasting My Time” to “Screwdriver”) which lands directly on top of a stellar “The Union Forever.” From there, the combo of “Cannon / John The Revelator” melts effortlessly into “Little Room” which jumpstarts immediately into a frenetic “Hotel Yorba,” all followed up with a take on “I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman” that turns on a dime when Jack substitutes the lyrics to “Now Mary” while still playing the tune to “Gentlemen.” Which then morphs into a unique “The Denial Twist.” All that to say, for my money this is the most impressive ten song run I ever saw the White Stripes do.
Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground Icky Thump When I Hear My Name I’m Slowly Turning Into You Effect And Cause I Think I Smell A Rat (tease) Cannon (tease) Wasting My Time (tease) Screwdriver (tease) The Union Forever Cannon / John The Revelator Little Room Hotel Yorba I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman / Now Mary (medley) The Denial Twist Catch Hell Blues A Martyr For My Love For You In The Cold, Cold Night Black Math Passive Manipulation We’re Going To Be Friends You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
Encore Astro Jack The Ripper The Big Three Killed My Baby Little Ghost The Same Boy You’ve Always Known Jolene Ball And Biscuit Seven Nation Army Boll Weevil
The fact that the word “penultimate” exists exclusively as an adjective for next-to-last situations feels almost egregious. I mean, did we really need an eleven letter word to describe this scenario when a three-word combination totaling ten letters does the job just perfectly?
Because let’s face it…second-to-last things are kinda just whatever. All the penumbra and history and tall tales sprout effortlessly from every last whisper about the LAST of something, the finality, the never-again crushing darkness of an abyss of nothingness for the rest of eternity.
So for me to roll in and tell you just how good the White Stripes were in their penultimate live show…I understand the urge to call bullshit. But honestly, truthfully, with all personal bias removed from shading of opinion here…this show is phenomenal.
Visits to an Original House of Pancakes, a record store and some antique shops all replay as relatively ordinary for daytime activities. If anything, my memory of the day sticks out as being oppressively hot. With afternoon highs in the 90s, temps at Sloss Furnaces – the supposedly haunted turn-of-the-century pig iron producing blast furnace turned concert venue – would hover into the 80s well into the Stripes performance that night. Factor in the crush of 2400 bodies crammed into the rudimentary shed-like structure with unforgiving open air walls and my recall of the event is overwhelmingly punctuated by the feel, smell and general annoyance of sweat.
Add in the decrepit, rusted, tetanus-y surroundings of the rest of the campus and the knowledge that the number of workers who died there was rumored to be in the hundreds, their falling or being pushed into the red hot fires of the furnaces only to be instantly incinerated and the unshakable pall that casts on a spot even some five decades after the last flames there were extinguished…needless to say it didn’t feel like an ordinary show by any means.
Opener Dan Sartain would play in front of the biggest hometown crowd of his career and the highlight for me (playing drums for him on this leg) was his inquiry to the crowd “So…how many genuine Alabama rednecks we got here tonight?” After a strong response from the crowd, Dan replied “Well, you made my life a living hell for 26 years. Thank you.”
Just…perfect in every way.
The show kicks off with “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” and finds Jack taking liberties (for the better) in a song where he usually did not. The particularly gnarly first note of feedback curves into some choice guitar syncopations. As the most-frequent set opener across the band’s career, it feels odd that this would be the last time the Stripes ever started a show with “Dead Leaves” as their final gig would begin with a cover “Stop Breaking Down.”
“Icky Thump” rolls into the fray wildly. To hear the assembled crowd, without prompting, perfectly nail the patter of twelve “la’s” sung in rapid succession at the end of the second verse, all mere weeks after the song’s release…it is a great reminder as to how WIDE this record reached so quickly upon deployment.
Leading into “When I Hear My Name” Jack, particularly chatty this evening, says “Meg and I knew we was Alabama bound!” and despite any hammy undertones, it ultimately comes off as sincere and heartfelt. Leading out from there, “Hotel Yorba” hits as particularly vivacious, Meg’s accompanying vocals both vivid and spot-on.
Jack’s unusual beginning to “The Denial Twist” and the improvised divergent lyrics in the second verse, which seem to say “It’s the way you rock and roll!” leave the Stripes’ final performance of this song as striking.
While the extended, elegiac intro to “Death Letter” stands strongly as a haunting slice of slide guitar, Jack’s improvised lyrics on the third verse delight. Similar to his moves earlier in “Dead Leaves”, taking a specific part of a song that, to my memory, was seldom if ever switched up, and reworking it on the spot, it all feels significant. Especially in light of the fact that the song would essentially run out of its evolutionary runway in another 24 hours. So for him to sing…
It looked like ten thousand
Women around my front porch
Didn’t know if I’d listen to ‘em
Or keep on lookin’ north
I’m just reminded of the fact that no song should ever be considered complete or finished or beyond reinterpretation.
Acolytes of St. Francis of Assisi may be surprised to catch Jack’s in-the-moment name drop of Brother Sun, Sister Moon in the midst of an extended rant toward the end of “Do.” Though it may bear repeating that “Little Bird” and its “I wanna preach to birds” lyric is explicitly inspired by the 13th century saint, it should require no leap of faith to imagine the 1972 Franco Zeffirreli film depicting the life and times of Francis being viewed by Jack as a prepubescent altar boy. Eschewing his wealthy upbringing for a life of piety and monasticism, Francis would become patron saint of Italy, the first documented stigmatic and the creator of the first live nativity scene. If there’s a Catholic Hall of Fame, St. Francis of Assisi is definitely a first-ballot shoe-in.
Nuggets like Jack’s borderline goofy drunk introduction of Meg for “In The Cold, Cold Night” with “Miss Meg White takes center stage!” belies a truly stellar performance while brief, blink-and-you-missed-it riff inversions on both “Astro” and “Little Cream Soda” are delicious little surprises to revel in. And I’ll be damned if the organ-driven take on “I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart” is a welcome reminder that every last live version of this song is worth listening to. It never fails disappoints, it always satisfies.
But the juiciest plum in this set is the unexpected, abrupt abandonment of “Seven Nation Army” a mere ninety seconds into the song. When Jack says “I don’t know if we should play this song in America anymore…I guess it doesn’t translate well…lost something in the translation” he says so without knowing it’d be the last time that he and Meg ever played the song together.
I remember this happening that night, but at the time I never mentioned it or thought to bring it up.
But 15 years later I had to.
So in an email with the subject line “dumb white stripes question” I reached out to Jack for clarity on the situation. His response…
oh i think i was just joking because it had become such a soccer chant at the time and that europeans loved it “more” than americans for a minute there
and they weren’t singing any english lyrics just saying “po po po po” in Italy, so i was joking that americans didn’t understand the “foreign language” of “po po po po po po po”
That reads nicely.
But I cannot help being reminded that in 2007 George W. Bush was still in office and folks were still wildly pissed about his mere existence AND the ongoing overseas US military boondoggles. That year would see a total of 904 American armed forces casualties in Iraq alone, the single highest yearly total in the entirety of said occupation.
So in Alabama, I dunno…a bunch of self-identifying, sweat-soaked rednecks chanting along…it had just the faintest twinge of jingoistic misappropriation originating from the crowd…that basso ostinato chopping along with the sinister Dorian mode overtone. It sounds ominous. “Army” is in the title. I mean, it’s not a stretch.
At the time I remember just having half the half-second thought along these confused political lines and then literally have not thought about it since. The only contemporaneous review I can find of the show, written by Andy Smith, attributes the scuttled “Seven Nation Army” as an effort to prevent “the righteous and violent rigor of the lyrics (to) be misinterpreted as condoning an unrighteous war.”
So even if we do take Jack at his word here (which I think we should), what he says his intention was, it’s worth noting that the perceived notion in the air that night, at least to some, was of an entirely different tone. These are the shortcomings of interpretation. They will never rectify themselves.
So for Jack to switch the opening “Ball and Biscuit” lyrics to be…
Yes I am the Third Man, woman
But I am also the seventh son
…to me it reads as almost stentorian “LET ME SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU”-level of painting a picture just perfectly clear in light of the supposed confusion or misinterpretation of anything earlier in the set. With gusto.
Yet the impromptu lyrics on “300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues” are deadly…
There’s all kinds of emotions that a phone call ain’t gonna fix
You took me to the brink woman, took me everywhere I didn’t want to go but I went anyway I never want you to question where I was headed, yes that’s where my head is nowadays
The complexity and grasp of human condition displayed in an off-the-top-of-the-head exclamation, deftly cramming all those syllables into precise meter and landing on the rhyming couplet, all while giving off the impression that the severity and pathos contained therein surely must’ve been labored over intensely for hours, days, weeks even…well, isn’t that just the way to knock us all over?
Ending with “Boll Weevil” just a short trip up I-65 from the actual boll weevil monument in Enterprise, Alabama, and some on-mic praise of Sartain is a perfect way to put that specific, local, “we know exactly where we are” stamp on the entire evening. When Jack implores the crowd to not go looking for any ghosts on the property after the show, you have half a mind to respect those wishes.
We in the touring party would not respect those wishes. After the show, a bunch of us (including Meg, but not Jack) climbed the stairs, single-file, to a precarious perch overlooking the vast, murky stretches of the complex. From above the entirely insufficient artificial light dappled the tiniest spots and failed to make a dent in the existentially overpowering void.
Even more dread-inducing was the spectre of a pitch-black decommissioned railroad tunnel. From entry to exit, the path we were led to couldn’t have been more than 200 yards at most. But I do not exaggerate when I say there was a complete absence of any outside illumination in this stretch. Pure, unadulterated emptiness. Cannot see your own hand in front of your face insanity. The shit that so many horror film plots are predicated on and has kept the night light business booming since the passing of the torch from candle to light bulb.
We got our hands on a single, meager flashlight, yet between the 8 of us (or so) that were on the endeavor…it felt wildy inadequate to the point of palpable, impending fear.
But there’s a funny little thing that happened within this little group of friends upon venturing into the ghastly, haunted space. We were all still buzzy from the after effects of such a stunning live concert in such unconventional environs. Simply put…we laughed our fucking asses off. Hysterically. The entire time. What took us maybe five minutes to traverse passed in seemingly five seconds. No one seemed like they could even be bothered with being scared. In the face of the uncertain, of the overwhelming chasm…one light and each other was all we needed to lead the way. To illuminate. To get us to the desired destination.
In the end, we’re all just chasing ghosts, looking for something to get us through.
Setlist Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground I Think I Smell a Rat Icky Thump When I Hear My Name Hotel Yorba The Denial Twist Death Letter Do I’m Slowly Turning Into You In The Cold, Cold Night I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart Seven Nation Army Astro Jack the Ripper Encore Gap
Encore Little Cream Soda A Martyr For My Love For You One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues We’re Going To Be Friends I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself Ball and Biscuit / Cool Drink of Water Blues Boll Weevil
nugs.net is thrilled to announce exciting new additions to its catalog of live concert recordings.
Over the past two decades, pioneer live music streaming platform nugs.nethas evolved into the leading source for official live concert recordings from the largest touring artists in the world. With an ever-expanding digital archive of more than 25,000 concerts and hundreds of on-demand videos of full shows from marquee acts like Metallica, Pearl Jam, The Rolling Stones, Dead & Company, and Phish, nugs.net provides music fans VIP access to their favorite concerts anytime, anywhere. Throughout April, nugs.net is adding an iconic, genre-spanning collection of new artists and live concert recordings to their massive, unrivaled streaming library, including an epic selection of new and archival shows from Jack White, DARKSIDE, Pixies and more.
Jack White’s Supply Chain Issues Tour Concert Audio
On the heels of releasing his eagerly awaited new album, FEAR OF THE DAWN, Jack White kicked off his Supply Chain Issues Tour last week with two sold-out shows at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Theatre. The tour, which features White’s first headline shows in four years, will make 50+ stops across North America, Europe, and the United Kingdom through late August. In partnership with nugs.net, White will offer official soundboard audio from every stop on the tour, available to stream exclusively via nugs.net here: nugs.net/jackwhite. Of the new partnership, Third Man Records co-founder Ben Blackwell shares, “While we’ve been recording all Jack White live shows for years, only now did it finally feel right to release all of them quickly after the performance. And with nugs.net as our partner…we couldn’t be happier with the results.”
Six Epic Sets from Psychedelic Duo DARKSIDE
Beginning today, music fans around the globe can enjoy full-length concerts from DARKSIDE, the psychedelic collaboration between electronic producer Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, who have partnered with nugs.net to bring two visually driven, atmospheric performances, as well as official soundboard audio from five epic concerts to the platform’s extensive streaming catalog for the first time. Watch DARKSIDE’s intimate sunset show overlooking the Manhattan skyline, Psychic Live set at Stereolux in Nantes, and more streaming exclusively on nugs.net here: nugs.net/DARKSIDE.
26 Pixies Archive Concert Recordings
Alt-rock icons Pixies also join nugs.net this month. 26 full-length concerts from the archives, including recordings from 1991 and the band’s 2004 reunion tour, will be available to stream on April 21 at nugs.net/thepixies. All shows feature the band’s original lineup: frontman Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal, and drummer David Lovering. Highlights include Pixies’ first show in 11 years at the intimate Fine Line in Minneapolis, a performance on the mainstage at Coachella, and a 2004 sold-out, four-night run at Brixton Academy in London.
Immersive 360 Reality Audio
Throughout the month, nugs.net will continue to bring the live concert experience to music lovers worldwide. Stream iconic performances and classic albums by David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Janis Joplin in immersive 360 Reality Audio, which brings the electricity of live music and the energy of a crowd to you like never before. Experience exclusive live recordings from the Bruce Springsteen Archives, like The Roxy ’75, as if you were in the room with the E Street Band on the Born to Run Tour. Listen to the classic Jefferson Airplane Volunteers album the way it sounded in the studio, and hear David Gilmour play “Wish You Were Here” with the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra like you’re in the crowd of 50,000 fans. For more information and to start listening visit: try.nugs.net/360.
By Ben Blackwell, The White Stripes archivist and drummer for Jack White And The Bricks:
I was never legally old enough to enter the Gold Dollar when it was a functioning rock and roll club.
From my first visit on June 6th, 1998 (The White Stripes opening for Dura-Delinquent) until my final time through the front door on August 8th, 2001 (my band the Dirtbombs playing as a kick-off to a West Coast tour) I spanned the ages of 15 through 19. For insurance purposes, the bar was a 21-and-over establishment. But whether by carrying amps, playing the drums or just earnestly convincing whomever was working the door that I legitimately had no interest in consuming alcohol…I was able to see no less than two dozen shows there.
As likely the youngest person to have been a witness/participant in the music scene at the Gold Dollar…I am well aware that I was DAMN lucky to have done so. That may be the coolest thing I am ever even remotely adjacent to and truly embracing it I feel simultaneous both proud and depressed. Most people who peak as teenagers do so as some sort of high school football/cheerleader/big shot on campus bullshit…all things that I was expressly avoiding at that time. Yet, here I am, over twenty years later, still talking about the group that had a half-dozen mildly attended performances within a nuclear blast radius of each other, across five months of 1999 like it’s goddamned “Glory Days” and I’m Bruce stepping back from the mic so that the crowd can shout along the words to the chorus.
Tony Soprano saying “Remember when is the lowest form of conversation” fucked me up more than any other dialog in my life. I feel like I am constantly fighting with myself. Fighting to appropriately appreciate and contextualize the past and at the same time, attempting to downplay it, hoping that I’m currently living something that will be worthwhile to recollect in another twenty years.
While I weirdly never felt like “The Bricks” (a name we’d never called ourselves and were never referred to as when we were actually performing) were a real band, I was, by far, the weakest player in the group of otherwise professionals. I had yet to join the Dirtbombs and prior to my gigs with the Bricks I had played MAYBE three shows in front of a crowd. One of those was a high school battle of the bands. Another in a bowling alley lounge. You know…inconsequential shit. So while an audience recording of this show existed in tape trading circles since immediately after the performance, this multi-track soundboard recording proved revelatory in what had been unheard to my ears since that night. The opening of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” shined through with Brendan Benson’s striking countermelodies on guitar, all but nonexistent on the audience tape. When the opening lyrics came through I was confused…” Why is Brendan singing?” The delivery is unmistakably him, though through years and years of listening on a lo-fi tape I’d never noticed Brendan sang the first two lines…
Dead leaves and the dirty ground when I know you’re not aroundShiny tops and soda pops when I hear your lips make a sound…
Only to have Jack jump in, with gusto, guts, glory, and the response to Brendan’s call..
When I hear your lips make a sound!
I’m not exaggerating here…when I first heard this, clear as daylight, I choked up a bit. I think it’s beautiful and feels like a truly moving moment just accidentally happened to be caught on tape that night.
Although I play drums here, I have few clear memories of what went down that evening. Royal Trux, the headliners, were late to arrive. I believe they showed up after we’d finished our set. My mom was there. It was a school night. I was seventeen years old. Pretty sure I got paid. That’s about it. My entire time in the band I was just making a very poor attempt to play drums like Patrick Keeler. Why I thought I could approximate his style is beyond me, and I often compare myself to Billy Yule playing drums in the last-gasp iteration of the Velvet Underground. I really shouldn’t have been on stage or in this band, but am forever grateful and happy that I was.
The setlist features a couple of songs that aren’t on the Bricks live recording from the Garden Bowl two months prior, which was released as part of Third Man’s Vault #15 in 2013. “One and Two” is an original Jack White song that never ended up being used or recorded anywhere else, which is odd for him. I particularly enjoy the slippery bass playing of Kevin Peyok on this song and feel like he may well have been the glue that held the band together. “Candy Cane Children” feels odd outside of the context of the White Stripes, especially as they never really performed the song live. “Ooh My Soul” is sloppy sloppy sloppy and in my opinion, the first two chords presage what would come later via “Fell in Love With a Girl.”
All my personal caveats aside, the show is a legitimately fun listen. That weird time in ’99 where Jack just seemed like he had so much music seeping out of him that he had to hurry up and start ANOTHER band after the break-up of Two Star Tabernacle and his ousting from the Go…and that band seeming to be COMPLETELY different from either of those outfits or the White Stripes even. I can’t help but stress here, besides “Candy Cane Children” NONE of these songs would’ve been considered “White Stripes” songs at the time of this performance. They were “Jack White” songs that hadn’t truly found their form or footing in the duo format.
Originally included as part of our 27th Vault package back in the first quarter of 2016, the audio here is newly remastered by Bill Skibbe at Third Man Mastering…a facility only blocks away from the Gold Dollar address at 3129 Cass Avenue.
As part of my duties at Third Man Records, I was able to enter what remained of the Gold Dollar building on “official business” not long after the original release of this show. Clad in a hard hat and joined by folks representing the Illitch family that owned the spot…it was a sad collection of four walls, dirt floor, and collapsing ceiling. The idea was to try and see if there was some sort of collaboration that Third Man could spearhead to rehab the building. But damn…all I could think of was that besides the walls, there was no “there” there. As someone who had MANY formative nights in that space and saw more than my fair share of transformative performances on that stage AND could possibly help revitalize it…I was unmoved. I’d rather let the memories exist as they were than invoke a Ship of Theseus experiment. Though I did take solace in the fact that I had finally entered the building legally.
On July 22nd, 2019, the structure would meet its ultimate demise in a suspected arson, the news of which no less than a dozen people felt compelled to immediately share with me. Developers reached out to me directly asking if Third Man would be interested in trying to rebuild/recreate the spot. Dare I even mention that there was talk of Third Man getting the building for a $1/year lease prior to the fire? And that we weren’t interested then? When asked by the Metro Times to comment on the fire at the time I said, “History like what happened at that club, for me, transcends the buildings it happened in. I’m sure there were probably at least five other fires in Detroit today that were far more tragic. Life goes on. This too shall pass. Memories are all that matter.”
I stand by that statement. I think I was unemotional about the fire because I actually had the vague “closure” of being able to walk through that room one last time. Bar missing, mirrors behind the stage disintegrated, finally able to go backstage for the first time (no one ever told me there was a backstage!)…the only sign music ever happened there being a destroyed Half Japanese / Godzuki / Wild Bunch handbill I’d dug out from underneath where the security monitors were. Otherwise…it was just a space, empty for 15 years, left to the ravages of time and the elements and scrappers and squatters and in desperate need of being demolished. You know…a regular building in Detroit.
So here’s to the memory of the Gold Dollar, to club owner Neil Yee for being wise enough to hit “record” so many times, to the sublime summer of ’99, to peaking early, to electric nights of loose rock and roll, played for no one you didn’t know, figuring it all out in the process, working on mysteries without any clues, crystalline and idealized in my mind, me unaware of how clueless I actually was at the time, feeling like there was nothing but opportunity, potential and promise that lay ahead.
While youth may be wasted on the young, why are teenage dreams so hard to beat? I think memories, true, deep, stay-with-you-the-rest-of-your-life-because-they’re-fundamental-to-your-ever-so-fragile-sentience MEMORIES are only thrust onto those who are both sufficiently eager and receiving. Old guys who only talk about old times have closed off their receptors, failing to continue as memory collectors. Scientists say that humans aren’t the only beings that recollect, that rats can have episodic memory, but I doubt those vermin are ever troubled by it. Yet the tenuous balance between nostalgia and living in the moment shows no signs of subsiding in my consistently evolving superego…with all indications that my final actions, final words, and final thoughts on this mortal coil will almost certainly be some act of reminiscing. I hope when I get older I don’t sit around thinking about it, but I probably will. You know…glory days.
“Heard Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana consecutively on the radio as we entered Seattle city limits. When we got to the club the sound guy was wearing the ‘Fudge Packin’ Nirvana tee I knew I’d see here. Took me awhile to find the Space Needle, but once I did, I knew I was officially in Seattle. While band was sound checking, I explored the city and managed to walk to Sub Pop World HQ and the Croc Club.
The Stripes were okay, Slim Moon was really into it, sold a ton of merch, saw some guy with a bootleg Gories ‘Outta Here’ t-shirt. After the show, Jack got offered to record for Kill Rock Stars and Sub Pop (from Jon Ponemon himself). Leaving the club the van wouldn’t start (for about ten seconds) giving everyone a big scare.”
In terms of The White Stripes first extended tour, Seattle seemed like a gig everyone was looking forward to. Having just turned 18 years old four days prior, I was later told that if I could get into the show in Seattle (with some of the most restrictive 21-and-over bar policies in the country) that I would be able to get in ANYWHERE. No one ever even asked to look at my ID, but the next four times I would find myself at the Crocodile Club I would have to stay in the van because I wasn’t 21 yet. Anyway, the set that night was prime White Stripes 2000 magic, all the best moments from their first two albums delivered with abandon and aplomb. The crowd doesn’t even seem to mind the early abandonment of “Little Bird”, cheering their heads off at its conclusion, nor object when Jack re-inserts the tune into the set not two songs later. While Jack’s voice had been having issues this week (he even begins the show pre-apologizing for it) outside of his changing his register for “Jolene” it sounds vibrant to me. The vitality of youth! I shot video of this gig, but it’s a terrible angle with horrible light. Maybe we’ll share it for the 30th anniversary.
We’re back for the first Third Man Thursday of the year and this month’s release is a unique treat. Today, Third Man Records is releasing The White Stripes’ 2001 show at Orange House in Munich, Germany. The show is one of only two known White Stripes shows to be recorded on reel-to-reel tape. Third Man Records’ Co-Founder Ben Blackwell’s write up details the unique process of mastering this show from the 1/4″ tapes:
This show is a remarkable performance in stellar quality. Boy do the Germans know how to record! Of particular interest was the fact that a radio broadcast in 2001 was recorded to 1/4” tape. Just seems like…such an anachronistic move. The fact that the tapes ended up in the Third Man Vault made it all the better to transfer at an appropriately-high bitrate and then share them here. But the tapes themselves were in an incredibly odd iteration which I had never even seen before. They weren’t on reels (or flanges) and instead the tape was all held together by sheer tension around a metal center piece that looks reminiscent of a 45rpm adaptor. I am told they are called AEG hubs. Additionally, the tape was wound with the reels magnetic side OUT. Leave it to our main man Bill Skibbe to track down a German Telefunken tape machine IN DETROIT and work magic on his end. The heads on Telefunken machines face IN, so he had to surgically unspool, respool, edit out dead space AND track down a step up converter as the machine only runs on 220v electricity. I wish everyone had their very own Bill Skibbe to solve technological quandaries like this. I mean, he IS for hire at Third Man Mastering, but I digress.
There are some songs missing here that are included in audio circulating amongst fans, in this instance clearly missed by engineers swapping out reels in real time. Rather than try to include from inferior sourced audio, we’ve chosen to just present the show exactly as it exists on these original tapes. Save for one EARLY gig (1997?) I am unaware of any other White Stripes performances that were captured on reel-to-reel tape, so this feels extra-special. Starting the set with “Death Letter” is peculiar and I love it…I can’t recall any other Stripes performance beginning with that song, but I’m sure some die-hard will take the opportunity to tell me otherwise! Coupled with rousing takes on “Love Sick” and “The Union Forever” the entire performance captivates. A prime example of the on-fire abandon Jack and Meg were brimming with in 2001.