Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Concert: The White Stripes

The White Stripes. WoW.
We arrived at the Boston Opera House at 7:20 pm to see the 7:30 show. We should have known that there would be an opening band. Time was ours to kill. We sat in the front row of the mezzanine seats, just right of center. The place was bathed in a warm glow from acres of ornate golden plasterwork. Warm chandeliers lined the side walls and the deep red of the seats was a ready sea for White Stripes aficionados. The fans barely trickled in for the opening band. We sat there, mouths agape, as music pounded our eardrums. A drummer and two guitar players pounded and screamed and generally looked and sounded great. Too great. After several rocking tunes abused our bodies, L. glanced at his watch. It had been eight minutes. We felt old. We meekly went to the lavish foyer for a glass of something to dull our senses. I opted for a shot of vodka. It was key.

We sat on a marble step in an empty niche near the impressive bust of Benjamin Franklin Keith (B.F Keith), who commissioned the original building. The tiny plaque beneath his oversized bust had tinier print. We watched people stroll over and squint at it. We watched the crowd descend and ascend the curving staircase in front of us. A rough-around-the-edges crowd. Some fashionistas, but mostly semi-dolled up girls with guys in jeans. A distinctive couple popped up the steps, each with two drinks. They had outwitted the bar line. He had better hair than her, dark and artfully hung across his forehead. They both wore the trendy new pencil thin jeans. They bounced with anticipation. Finally the lights dimmed and the masses headed for their seats.

The mostly empty theater filled up rapidly as we found our seats again. The lovely pencil pants couple had the two seats next to us. They hit their feet and jiggled, in the best sense possible, for almost every tune. At the end of the concert I heard them tell someone that they were over from London for just this one night. See you in London, then, right.

The White Stripes strolled onto the black, white and red stage and it was energy, noise and that relentless and deeply satisfying drum beat for an hour and a half. I have to say they are fucking good. They have these clean lines and a deep, sexual connection to the music they spin. It is fun to watch them. Meg, the drummer, exudes chill. Jack, the other half, exudes pleasure. And then, at about the second song, Jack took off his long black coat and bent down to chat with the front row. He plucked a nine-year-old girl from the row, after a nod from Dad, and got her comfy just behind the piano. That tiny tot enjoyed the entire show from her privileged vantage. When Meg come stage front to sit and play her bongos, Jack held the little girl’s hand and brought her forward. They gave her a tambourine and she happily tamped that thing off beat for two songs. The audience loved this. A punk rocker, doing his own thing, wearing togs from Hot Topic and sporting a razor thin mustache, man of pleasure who can sing to a nine year old like the ultimate cool Dad. It could have been creepy, Michael Jacksonesque, but he was straight level wholesome when he offered his hand and she clutched it having the time of her nine year old life.

Did I mention the noise? WoW. I have never gotten the bazillion decibels thing. I guess this is why I have never really been a concert fan. I prefer the intimacy of a back waters blues bar, where you can see the eyes of the singer and he can, and does, talk to you. Not that the Whites are impersonal. Meg and Jack, formerly married to one another, had an undercurrent of modern love in their stage work that turns intimacy on its head and gives me a kind of hope for all of us.

This White Stripes concert was worth every sacrificed brain cell and any irreparable damage to inner ear drums. I don’t know the first thing about Detroit, garage rock, punk, British pop and couldn’t name a band in the same league as the White Stripes. But I know that they put on a damn good show. And probably once was enough, for me.

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