Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wiped Stripes

I've got this policy about never writing negative words about live performances because, shit, I don't imagine that it's easy to go on stage for a succession of nights to entertain a needy crowd hoping to hear that song you've played a few hundred times and are probably sick of. Plus, it takes a certain amount of balls to do these things, and as a man with no known musical talent himself, I'm predisposed to defer to those with courage. Everyone's a critic and most people are DJs.

Still, something was a little off with tonight's White Stripes show at Madison Square Garden. They'd just completed a heroic tour of Canada, and I don't think Jack and Meg have headlined venues the size of MSG. They seemed a little dwarfed -- there wasn't the kind of energy and bravado that it takes to fill that kind of room. No banter (which I don't necessarily mind; stage banter with the crowd can be a pain in the ass) but also little recognition by Jack that he was playing to an audience. You're waiting for the rush, for something to uncork, the kind of spontaneous intensity that distinguishes a murderous rock show from a competent performance, but that wasn't coming. It was studious intensity, almost tense, but not in a good dramatic way, almost in a nervous way. There was an excellent reworking of "Fell in Love With a Girl," Jack's guitar sounded great, Meg made for a good silhouette projected on a wall of red. But still.

Then they stepped out for the encore and everything seemed right. Jack was lighter, the crowd was more kinetic, and there was the feel that yes, this is why you all came here to be together after all.* Songs that I'd never loved ("Little Ghost") sounded kind of thrilling and the odd tension that I was discerning (imagining?) was gone.

Was something off-balance here? Am I imagining it? I'll blame myself.** It was the concert I've most looked forward to in 2007, so expectations were distorted. I've been enjoying "Icky Thump" even more than their other albums. The seats were great, on floor with a direct view of the stage. I waited for the passion and the play.

*Needless digression: One of the small good things about seeing live shows is the people-watching, and the big difference between a general admission venue and a place like MSG is assigned seating. The people around you, it's like being on a flight, and you're forced to observe them for awhile. When my friends and I walked out we immediately started talking about the trio in front of us: a completely wasted guy in his mid-20s, a seemingly long-suffering girlfriend or wife, and an older guy that appeared to be his father. The guy and his dad kept grabbing each other by the head and talking into each other's face. At one point, there was man-on-dad face kissing. Periodically, the guy would try to dance, but then fall onto the startled row in front of him. The woman seemed frustrated and embarrassed; the dad appeared to be giving his son woman advice from time to time; the dad didn't seem to enjoy the show, but pretended to for the guy's benefit. It was somewhat reminiscent of Timmy Baterman, and another reminder of why you shouldn't intern your kid in the Micmac Burial Ground.

**It might have been some kind of personal funk. Somehow I managed to get fucking disoriented when I came out of the subway and confused myself on east-west directions. By now the geography of this city is tattooed on my brain. I never get lost, and I've got the instincts of a homing pigeon. Drop me in the middle of Calcutta without a map or translator, and I'll immediately know where I am and where I want to go. Still, I somehow got fucking confused about finding 8th and 33rd. Friends speculated that I suffered a mild stroke. If I suffered a mild stroke, that might explain my mild reaction.


Applesaucer said...

I thought the White Stripes were awesome -- one of the best shows I've seen over the past year or so, which include: Raconteurs at Roseland (OK, but by-the-numbers); the Shins at the Theater at Madison Square Garden (your comment re: the White Stripes would actually apply perfectly to the Shins concert) and the Arctic Monkeys at Hammerstein (they really rocked, but not as well or for as long as the Stripes did).

This is all IMHO.

Great blog,


blythe said...

i suspected as much. i like reviews like these because i don't feel so shitty about living in OK where the white stripes fear to venture. as far as i know. i have no fact to back this up. they could've played last week but i was busy watching the age of love and so you think you can dance.

CrimeNotes said...

applesauce -- I saw The Shins 2-3 years ago, and agree. Very listless. I didn't think there was anything that wrong with last night's show. It was just kind of subdued.

blythe -- I'd be surprised if they don't venture to Oklahoma.

Mr. Met said...

I think the Shins are really just hot and cold. I saw them in 05 at Webster Hall and thought it was terrible, one of the worst shows I've ever seen out of a band I love. It didn't seem like they had any clue how to play their instruments, or mix their sound, or interact with a crowd. Other people saw then another time and told me I was crazy.

Then, I saw their in-store appearance at Virgin for the release of the new album and they were incredible. Great sound (even in a non-venue), lots of fun on the stage, etc. So I wonder just how bad of a night they were having at Webster. But I guess that they still miss as much as they hit.

Anonymous said...

I was there and totally agree with you, last time I saw them was at Roseland, and that show was 110% better than last nights

Mr. Shain said...

i wanted to hear more about the triumverte sitting in front of you. where did they come from? where were they going afterwards? what awkward conversations were had the next morning...?

CrimeNotes said...

Met: I think I was at that same show, and I agree. Halfway through people stopped paying attention. It was kind of depressing. But, you know, bands change and develop, and they have bad nights once in awhile.

anon: Don't know if I'm glad to know that I'm not alone, or if I'd rather have someone educate me on how the show was better than I thought. It wasn't bad, just not that inspired or memorable. Worse things have happened.

Shain: The morning conversation probably went something like, "I'm never burying anything in the Micmac Burial Ground again."

katie said...

You forgot to mention the opening band -- which was terrible -- The Grinderman. Their endless screeching and angry, mindless, nonsesical yelling nearly drew me to slit my wrists.

crimenotes said...

Well, I try to avoid saying anything too negative about a band on here, especially when it's an opening act. Grinderman's fans will be self-selecting anyway. I probably won't be one of them.