"But I Was There..." A phrase once sung by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem applies to the age we live in now where people all over are given immediate and intimate access to any musical generation in recording history. However the one thing that the kids can never truly gain is the experience of actually being there, being in the room and seeing history being created right before their eyes. Sure there's YouTube, but you can't truly grasp the immensity of a live event on a computer screen.
I was there. Five years ago on this day I was witness to the most memorable concert experience of my life. I've seen Daft Punk cross the ocean to America, I've seen The Flaming Lips on New Years Eve, I've been to a lot of noteworthy shows on my short time in this planet, but nothing tops seeing The White Stripes at Madison Square Garden on July 24th 2007.
The crowd arrived early to see openers country legend Porter Wagoner (who passed away not too long after) and the enigmatic Nick Cave and his noise grunge project Grinderman. The two acts received a warm response but the crowd was seething for The White Stripes. Not many duos have ever sold out Madison Square Garden and the audience was eager to see how Jack would take advantage of this opportunity.
The stage was very much in the Stripes' style: stripped down and of course color coordinated. Everything from the backdrop to the instruments were bathed in red. Having seen The White Stripes on several tours before this one, I have to say that this stage setup was by far their best. The lights were angled in a way to cast huge shadows of Jack and Meg on the backdrop, it was like a natural Jumbotron but way more creative. It is still to this day the most effective lighting design I have ever seen. There was also a second level for Jack to walk up to allowing him to have a few Angus Young moments.
Jack and Meg tore through hit after hit after hit from their entire catalogue, they were at a point in their careers where they had too many good songs to play, but due to the immensity of the venue Jack was smart to stick to the heavy riffs like "Blue Orchid" and fan favorites like "Hotel Yorba." After what seemed like an already memorable show Jack and Meg came out for an unprecedented nine song encore just to make sure they left their mark on the place.
After the show, many of us were in left in complete awe of how one man had eighteen thousand people in the palm of his hand. We talked about how The White Stripes were at a perfect point in their careers where they were able to achieve commercial success without having to compromise any of their creative vision. It seemed like they couldn't be stopped. Then a few weeks later in Mississippi of all places, The White Stripes abruptly cancelled the remaining leg of their tour and eventually ended things all together. Only nine American cities got to witness the spectacle that I had been fortunate enough to see. If they had kept it together for the remainder of the tour there is no question in my mind that the Icky Thump tour would be considered The White Stripes best of their career.
Five years later, I still don't know how I feel about The White Stripes breakup. On one hand I miss knowing that someday soon their traveling roadshow would stop in my town, I miss marking on my calendar when a new White Stripes record might come out, but then again their sudden and still mysterious ending adds to the overall fascination of The White Stripes. Unlike most other bands they never released a disappointing album, and they ended things at a creative high. Though I am still blue about not having my favorite band around any more I can take comfort like so many other White Stripes aficionados in knowing that I was there.
The White Stripes - Catch Hell Blues 7/24/07
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