White Stripes at the Greek Theater

Last week, Melissa and I saw the Detroit duo of Jack and Meg White at the Greek Theater. This was the second time I’ve seen the Stripes in Berkeley, after seeing their show in fall 2003. Jack came out in some sort of 18th century military officer’s regalia, wearing a black coat with medals and black hat with white plume. Interestingly, the roadies wore uniform black suits with black shirts and red ties. The show started with a bang with ‘Blue Orchid,’ ‘I Think I Smell a Rat,’ and ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.’ The live favorite ‘Hello Operator’ was broken up by the Meg’s ‘Passive Manipulation.’ While I’m not a huge fan of the album version, the song I was most excited about seeing performed was ‘The Nurse,’ featuring Jack on the marimbas. At 31 songs, the set list was spanned all five Stripes albums and a few non-album tracks (‘Cause It’s My Birthday,’ ‘Boll Weevil’).

For better or worse, the concert will be memorable for the audience interruptions. First, a Live 105 balloon was batted around the crowd. As soon as I saw it enter the amphitheater floor, I knew this was going to be trouble. Of course, it ended up on stage next to Jack as he played piano on ‘My Doorbell.’ This prompted an unplanned 5 minute break from the band. In my opinion, it ruined ‘My Doorbell,’ but the next few songs seemed to have extra juice played by an infuriated Jack.

After the show, Melissa and I were curious to see if the radio station would make mention of it. Oddly, the same thing happened at the previous night’s show with a different station’s balloon. A post on whitestripes.net suggested that the incident at our show was an act of sabotage by another station, but Live 105 started airing apologies for the incident and ran a contest to give away the rest of their balloons to prevent future mishaps. Others wondered if the Stripes were in on the trouble since security did nothing to corral the wayward ball or prevent its journey to the stage. The fact that Jack didn’t mention the previous night’s episode furthers this hypothesis.

A second incident of audience participation came in what we assumed was the concert’s finale ‘Boll Weevil.’ At the end of the song, a guy jumped on stage (not difficult at the Greek), ran over to Jack, put his arm around him, and sang a couple lines from the song. Jack backed away, and a roadie tried to restrain the obviously drunk guy. The guy got away and jumped into the crowd, apparently hoping they would catch him. This was not the case. He instead fell directly onto the concrete floor, then tried to get through the crowd to the exit. Back at the mic, Jack directed to crowd to be quiet and point at the guy as he tried to escape. He taunted the dude for a couple minutes, then offered up an additional song, ‘Fell in Love with a Girl,’ as a tribute to him.

Audience interruptions notwithstanding, this was a fantastic concert as Jack White reaffirmed my opinion that he’s one of the premier showmen of our age. Interestingly, while Jack seems to feed off the crowd, Meg doesn’t seem to like her position of celebrity, very shyly bowing to the crowd, and setting her drum set to face Jack, not the audience. This could be all part of the act though, as she performed ‘Passive Manipulation’ (and ‘In the Cold Night’ last year) with seemingly little trepidation.


Setlist:
1) Blue Orchid
2) I Think I Smell a Rat
3) Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
4) When I Hear My Name
5) Top Special
6) Baby Blue
7) Hotel Yorba
8) Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise
9) Denial Twist
10) Stay Up All Night Long ‘Cause It’s My Birthday
11) You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)
12) Hello Operator / Passive Manipulation
13) Black Math
14) The Nurse
15) Stones (not sure on this one)
16) Red Rain
17) As Ugly As I Seem
18) Same Boy You’ve Always Known
19) My Doorbell
20) Let’s Shake Hands
21) The Big Three Killed My Baby
22) Small Faces
23) Apple Blossom
24) Cannon / John the Revelator
25) Ball and Biscuit

ENCORE:
1) I’m Lonely (But I’m Not That Lonely Yet)
2) I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself
3) Hardest Button to Button
4) Seven Nation Army
5) Boll Weevil
6) Fell in Love With a Girl

P.S. The noise/indie pop openers, Auto Lux [official site, allmusic entry], might be worth a listen.

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