Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Concert Review: The White Stripes, July 2, 2007, Winnipeg, MTS Centre

This was the second show at the MTS Centre in which I had floor seats, but this time, all the seats were standing — rush seating. My goal was to leave home so that I could arrive in time to be among the first let inside so I could get to the front of the stage.

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I arrived around 5:30 but was told that the doors were to open at 6:30. I headed to the tavern next door and had a quick supper. As I waited with a small crowd for the doors to open, one of them noted the warning that strobe lights would be used. He commented that strobe lights weren't good for him but that they didn't have any warning when he was buying his tickets.

I was the first and only person at the nearest merchandise booth but they said I had to go to the other one since that one had the 2 XXL shirts. As I walked over, I popped my head in to see how big the gathering crowd was at the front of the stage. It was still not even taking up all the space at the front. I waited for a few minutes at this other merchandise booth and made my way to the floor, putting on my new T-shirt-shirt. People were packed up near the middle but not on the sides so I just walked up the front.

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White Stripes vocalist and lead guitarist Jack White jammed with a street musician at The Forks Monday before blowing out 6,000 fans at the MTS Centre last night.

At first I had people jumping around me and just having a good time. Then, the shoving began, but I stood my ground the diminutive woman standing beside me and I didn't get squished. Before the show began, the security guards warned that anyone caught audience surfing would be kicked out. Several times during the show, the security reached over into the audience to try to grab people or to tell them to stop. One guy who was pulled out the audience was just let go and he gleefully ran back into the standing floor crowd.

I can't say what most of the songs were since I only recognized one for sure and I didn't know the names of the others that were familiar. I really like the new album but I haven't heard it enough to know the song titles. Dolly Parton's "Jolene" was powerfully and passionately sung by Jack White. One of the best songs performed was the single from their 2001 album, White Blood Cells, "Hotel Yorba." Jack introduced the song saying how much they enjoyed Winnipeg public transportation but they were kicked out of this particular hotel.

From the same album, many fans were singing along to "We're Going to Be Friends," which has also been used in the Napoleon Dynamite film and a cover version was recorded by Jack Johnson for the Curious George soundtrack. I don't think they played another favorite, "Fell In Love With A Girl." Towards the end of the show they played another favorite, "Seven Nation Army," which Jack started by stomping on stage monitor to get the audience clapping along.

Jack is a true icon. He's got the stage presence, the looks, the moves, the vocals and the guitar playing to keep audiences captivated. With his shock of bed-head hair, he also resembled a bit of Edward Scissorhands. He's also a Hollywood celebrity, which can only help the Stripes following among people who care about these things. I thought he also looked a bit like that guy who was in The Crow, a Goth movie from way back.

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When I saw the five microphones on the stage, I wondered if they would have back up singers but, of course, they didn't. It was interesting to hear the audience cheer when Jack played even the smallest blues lick on the guitar. Maybe the blues is something exotic to most of them. The opening band, Dan Sartain from Birmingham, Alabama, was unknown but they were appealing. The lead singer looked a bit geeky. I liked their energetic, twangy, sound and would like them more, I'm sure, if was familiar with their music. The drummer and second guitarist looked as if they were barely out of their teens. The bass player looked very average joe-ish, but I could hear his bass really well.

Having recently seen the awesome multi-media spectacle that is the current Roger Waters tour last week, I can honestly say that I have become spoiled for video screens. Usually, you see one video screen on either side of the stage, to give everyone a great look at the stage show, regardless of how far away anyone is. I was surprised to see that there were no video screens for this show. The backdrop was just a red curtain, without any names or logos. Almost everything on the stage was painted red, from amplifiers to keyboards, and including the stairs and raised platform that Jack White ran on so infrequently, you've got to wonder why they bothered to erect it in the first place.

At the end of the show, Jack was given a flag of Manitoba which he and Meg took turns waving at the front of the stage, as the audience reacted wildly, but also with the realization that with this special of a close, that there wasn't going to be an encore.
Given all the people I knew who were going, I was surprised to see fewer people than I expected, less than 10,000, I'd say. Today's paper said that 6,000 people attended.

I brought my earplugs, but it wasn't loud enough to require them. The Derek Trucks was way louder, as I was at the front, and I should have put them in for that show.

How long can they continue with the 2-person thrashy garage rock band before people tire of them? You'd think their angle - the two-person "brother-sister" act (Jack referred to Meg as his older sister at least twice, when they were formerly married and he took her last name) has limited musical potential before they have to repeat themselves. Meg sang one song in her girlie voice and Jack played a couple of keyboards.

Clearly, they appeal more to the twenty-something and under crowd, based on the audience I could see (which was mostly people on the floor.) Usually, the younger fans are, the more fickle they are and the more likely to abandon groups they love so much at the moment. I mean, if Ricky Martin came to town, I doubt he'd attract the same fans who saw him about 8 years ago when he was one of the hottest acts in the world. If the audience was more diverse than what I saw, then maybe the Stripes will be around for a while, especially if they continue to make good albums like the current one.

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