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Maxed-out minimalists

The White Stripes, Agganis Arena, July 23, 2007
By MATT ASHARE  |  July 30, 2007

Detroit’s White Stripes started with a simple concept in 1999: one busty female drummer, one spitfire guitarist, and a deep fondness for raw Motor City rawk reduced to its grittiest garage-punk essence. Seattle grunge had already blurred the lines between Black Sabbath and Black Flag, so why not inject the minimalism of an overdriven guitar and reductionist Mo Tucker drumming with Led Zep–style blooze riffery? It wasn’t a radical idea, but it sure had novelty appeal, especially given the Stripes’ penchant for dressing it all up in red-and-white candy stripes.

The duo continue to build on that foundation, even without radical departures, a point that was borne out by their packed, sweaty show on July 23 at Agganis Arena. They’re a band bent on maxing out minimalism. Red on red remains the color scheme preferred by drummer Meg White and singer/guitarist Jack White. To support the new Icky Thump (Warner Bros.), they’ve jettisoned the big red kettledrums and the marimba props from 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan tour, and Jack didn’t even spend much time with his vintage keyboards. It was all about guitar.

That’s not to suggest that Jack and Meg have retreated to the garage. The duo’s musical horizons have been expanding since their jump from indie Sympathy for the Record Industry label to V2 for their 2003 breakthrough, Elephant. Keyboard, marimba, and bagpipes now color their songs. Jack’s production on the Loretta Lynn comeback album Van Lear Rose (not to mention his role fronting the Racounteurs) has made it clear he’s no one-trick pony.

He’s also shown himself to be an enthusiastic student of American folk forms. But his natural affinity for the classic late-’60s/early-’70s electric hard blues of Hendrix, Zeppelin, and fellow Motor City madman Ted Nugent was the moving force of the Agganis show. Songs were secondary to riff, as one bled right into the next like one big jamming medley, from the opening barnstormer, “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground,” right up through the loose, almost improvisational dirty-down soloing of “300 M.PH. Blues.” Jack’s a consummate showman with a flair for old-school tricks like stutter-stepping across a chalk-filled catwalk that rose 25 feet over the stage, kicking up white dust in his wake. He invests his Pagey playing with sexual tension and release, just as he peppers his lyrics with lascivious Plantian wails. He and Meg may live on separate coasts now, but their on-stage rapport remains unsurpassed, with Meg following Jack’s every little shudder and twitch as he moves from riff to riff, song to song, and solo to solo.


Related: June tunes, Anything and everything, Live and kicking, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Loretta Lynn, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent,  More more >
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