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The White Stripes – Live at the Wireless Festival (Hyde Park, London UK):

2005 was a pretty eventful year for the White Stripes; they released a mediocre 5th studio album, did THAT Coca-Cola advert jingle, and Jack White was in a car crash (with Renee Zellweger of Bridget Jones “fame”, who he was dating at the time), which injured his left index finger. There was also a highly publicized nightclub fight with Jason Stollsteimer, the lead singer of the Von Bondies. The White Stripes, of course, hit the mainstream with the (still addictive) ‘White Blood Cells’ (2001), and then proved with sheer gall by following it up with the massive (literally) ‘Elephant’ (2003). The disappointing ‘Get Behind Me Satan’ slowed their ascent a tad, and then Jack White’s side-project – The Raconteurs – released a debut album easily on par with on anything from the Stripes’ glory days.

Rumours circulated that the White Stripes had, unfortunately (and prematurely), had their day. This was not the case. So now, in 2007, the new album ‘Icky Thump’ is released. With a new album comes the usual live appearances, but tonight is the only show in the UK this year, so expectations are high and all eyes are on Jack and Meg to entertain. And entertain us they do. The banter is kept to a minimum, but it’s the music that matters. Kicking off with a 3-song explosion of ‘Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground’, ‘When I Hear My Name’ and ‘Hotel Yorba’, a red and black clad Jack and black and white polka-dotted Meg serve the 30,000-strong audience some delicious musical treats.

A red and white monochrome video screens on either side of the minimal stage relay an energetic partnership, with the scorching riff of new single ‘Icky Thump’ screeching through the crowd. The sheer bombast in its lyrics (‘White Americans, what? / Nothing better to do? / Why don’t you kick yourself out? / You’re an immigrant too?’) shows that the cynically spiteful side of Jack White, the edginess we’ve seen in songs such as ‘I Think I Smell A Rat’, hasn’t been lost. Halfway through the set, the lights dim and Meg leaves her drum kit to come center stage and sing ‘In The Cold, Cold Night’ and then returns meekly for a crashing desperation-laden ‘Jolene’. Then it’s a medley of ‘Astro’ into a 6-minute ‘Ball and Biscuit’ freak-out, reminiscent of early Cream or Led Zeppelin in their heyday.

There’s a quick mention of Queens Of The Stone Age’s supporting performance, and then the big guns are pulled out. A breathless ‘Blue Orchid’ spirals into ‘The Denial Twist’, and it’s this relentless churning sound that heralds that the end of their set is coming. The crowd help Jack belt out a thunderous ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ and a – surprisingly intimate – ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’, and then the pile-driving pulsing riff of ‘Seven Nation Army’ hits our ears. It reverberates long after the pair says their cursory thanks and disappears offstage.
(By J M Ross)