“I don’t believe we’ve played this bar before” – Jack White
Dressed in a solid, blood-red and standing in front of a plain red stage, with an apple red guitar, Jack White kicked off the White Stripes’ first show at Madison Square Garden in style with the bare-boned power-blues of “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground”, kicking the fictional brother/sister team off and running and they didn’t stop for the next two hours. White’s energy and song selection kept the 20,000+ in attendance screaming along with proven burners “I Think I Smell a Rat”, “Hotel Yorba” and “Seven Nation Army” which turned into a bizarre glow-stick tossing moment, however, “Harry Hood” it was not. The tempo could also be tuned down when restraint was of the essence, evident during “Jolene” which is one of the best played covers in rock today. Meg got a chance to come out from behind her kit for “In The Cold, Cold Night” and her voice cooed in the way her kick drum kept the beat, shaky, but functional.
The phenomenal new songs smoked, from “Icky Thump” early in the show to the “Catch Hell Blues” explosion during the extended encore, all blending right in with old favorites, and some sounding even better. Jack stuck to his six-string for most of the night, mixing in some keyboard work, but let his improved slide playing (“Death Letter”) and metal riffs (“Blue Orchid”) pierce and dominate. There were moments when the thinness of the two-piece was evident in the huge arena, but Jack’s manic energy was palpable, making up for those pauses with a transient devotion to the blues, blistering in the set-closer “Ball and a Biscuit” that proved fiery through the last, encoring note of “Boll Weevil”.
The two Stripes were silhouetted all night by simple spotlights casting shadow ghosts onto crimson in a larger then life puppet show, accentuating Meg’s pumping legs and arms and Jack’s wailing guitar and voice. It is safe to say that the two work better in their little room, but tonight they played the big room and they remembered and demonstrated all the good they did in their little room to get them