Live Music + Gig Reviews

The White Stripes @ Astoria, London

21 November 2001

The White Stripes

The White Stripes

I have never, in all my long life, seen the Astoria hosting such a vast collection of bodies as I did on this White Stripes night. Wall-to-wall the bodies were, some still twitching with signs of life, pressed against each other, and gradually raising the temperature of the place – despite the wind turbines blasting air out at either side of the stage. If that dreaded word “anticipated” could have any use, this gig was it.

All this for a brother and sister (we think). The girl is the drummer; she energetically bashes her drums as her twin bunches flail with every movement. Her brother, rather more lithe than his photos would have you believe, is a human pogo stick with a guitar or two and, like her, is resplendent in red and white Elvisesque gear. They’re both on their own platforms, just like in the ’50s. And there is no bassist or keyboardist or anything else. Welcome to the world of the Whites.

It takes a few moments to work out where all the noise is coming from until we work out that Brother – Jack White – is playing lead, rhythm and bass at the same time. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is rather good when done well. And he really does it well.

It is a refreshing set for anyone who hasn’t recently heard ’50s rock music and is bored of the major labels’ recent output. The White Stripes, like The Strokes, are a throwback to a different time when marketing budgets, looks and whether you’d sold the most album units of the year (no offence, Dido) were actually not that important compared to whether the audience loved your music and your moves. And Brother has the moves. Within a song or two most of the Astoria is into this gig – one could almost imagine the roof tiles pogo-ing along to the riffs and yells.

While all rather similar – from Hotel Yorba to Fell In Love With A Girl – the set exposes a band that is raw, unrefined, energetic and very, very timely. Hats off to XL for signing this pair – they are needed now more than ever before.

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