Ah Blackpool - home of the famous tower, the illuminations, sticks of rock and, of course, kiss me quick hats. It's an unlikely destination for one of rock's most visceral live acts, but Blackpool's Empress Ballroom has always attracted top quality bands and this DVD is a recording of Jack and Meg White's show there in January 2004.
Live DVDs always struggle to match the sheer excitement of being at a gig - Under Blackpool Lights attempts to tackle this problem by staying true to White Stripes ethos and concentrating purely on the music. There's no special features, no director's commentary and no multi-angle option - just the sight and awesome sound of the Whites on absolute top form.
Visually, the DVD looks wonderful. It's filmed on hand held Super 8 cameras which gives the picture a rough, grainy feel, staying in line with the band's retro ethics. It also looks very cinematic (in fact, the DVD had a short cinema run immediately prior to its release) and actually does come close to capturing the thrill of a White Stripes gig. The sound too is mindblowing, with a neighbour-annoying DTS option, there's an irresistible temptation to turn this up very loud to gain the full effect.
The concert itself is absolutely superb. The first 15 minutes are worth the price of the disc alone, as Jack and Meg effortlessly stride through the first eight numbers, segueing expertly from Black Math to Dead Leaves In The Dirty Ground and throwing in snatches of blues classics like Jack The Ripper and Astro Blues. The whole thing sounds exhilarating and it comes as quite a surprise when they eventually stop playing for a quick breather.
The set consists of highlights from all four albums (although there is less emphasis on Elephant than you would think), plus the odd cover version such as their extraordinary version of Jolene, which is sung along to with gusto by the crowd, and the traditional closer of De Ballet Of De Boll Weevil. It's the original material that's the real highlight though, with the selections from De Stijl sounding particularly exhilarating, especially You're Pretty Good Looking and Hello Operator.
The camerawork allows the viewer to appreciate just how good musicians the Whites are - Jack's skills as a guitar player are confirmed here in a tour de force performance. His array of solos during Ball And Biscuit are impossibly exciting, even when sat in the comfort of your living room and he even proves a dab hand at the piano, on the rendition of Truth Don't Make A Noise. Meg White has her detractors but is actually hugely under-rated, even smashing her way through Let's Make Friends using only her right hand.
The DVD (tastefully packaged of course in only red, black and white) comes with a handy booklet which gives a little potted history of each song and which album the original version can be found on. The only criticism that could maybe be levelled is the lack of tracks such as Fell In Love With A Girl and There's No Home For You Here - but this seems churlish when compared to the sheer quality of what is on offer here.
Under Blackpool Lights isn't quite in the same league as other concert films such as Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, but it will certainly satisfy fans desperate for any new material from one of the best bands around at the moment.