Wednesday, August 1, 2007

They Go to 12

The White Stripes - House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC 8/29/07

A bolt of lightning can travel at a speed of 45km/s, with temperatures upwards of 50,000 degrees F, carrying with it an electric current of 40 kA or about one billion volts for a bolt of lightning 300m long. Harnessing that kind of energy is dangerous, commanding and invigorating. Man’s passion to obtain and use power has twisted the world and defined its history. Franklin, Volta, Galvani, Faraday, Ampere and Ohm were obsessed observers and pioneers in the abilities of the electric current, its relation to the atmosphere around and its relation with man and with itself. Ultimately, these men would stop studying the potential of electricity and began to practice its applications - sharing their discoveries and in so doing changing everything previously known, currently done and soon to be obtained. The perception, innovativeness, acute sense and understanding of an unknown begin their definition; but it’s their willingness and dedication to ask questions and uncover the answers to those very questions that closes their definition. Even with such foresight, these men of genius surely never imagined what use Jack White would find for that little spark that set the world aglow and were they on hand as I was this past Sunday, well, let’s just say they would have been shocked.

The House of Blues SC finds it’s setting amid the never-ending sea of American capitalism and commercial conglomerates known as redneck Mecca, or if you prefer, the formal given title of Myrtle Beach. This cesspool is geographically located under a 100miles north of Charleston, SC along the eastern seaboard. When it comes to class and character however, its metaphorically located light-years away. I had spent the better part of my weekend in the sophisticatedly snobby city to the south, and of that time most was spent under the constant barrage of torrential downpour and the electro-clapping of the skies; with at least five beers in my system at all times. Rolling into the Johnny Rockets’ Burger adjacently located to the venue, drained from the weekend and spent from an afternoon attempt at an outing the Scottish term ‘Golf,’ I was in need of a jolt to zap me back to life. The crap burger, Euro wait staff and song and dance routine did little to aide my cause, but the two tallboys I downed during a less than electric set by Dan Sartain did manage to send a spark and by the time Jack and Meg’s first notes blasted from the amplifiers the buzz of the room set the hair aback my neck on end. In a flash, the electrical phenomena of the White Stripes broke loose and sought to test the boundaries of known electromagnetism and its application to a strung instrument.

Ohm’s law states that I = V / R; where I = current in amperes, V = potential difference in volts and R = a known constant.

But we’re in the house that Jack built and here laws don’t apply, as the only thing that stays constant is the amplitude of intensity. The Stripes surged into Icky Thump sending a massive unrestrained charge into the crowd. From there the energy stored within ‘the White light’ dispelled through You Don’t Know What Love Is You Just Do As You’re Told and Effect and Cause…a power trio from the new LP, one they set light upon many more times over the course of the night.

The color of lightning should be red at oxygen rich low troposphere…I’m no meteorologist, but I take it the contained atmosphere of the HOB is drenched to the core in oxygen, as for the low troposphere, that would seem natural as well.

Red and White color scheme with rhinestones to boot, the Stripes’ use of ‘image’ as a force of nature is electric in its own right. The sparking persona and fizzling dynamic of the duo is the stuff of legend and should someday be made to law in the annuals of rock history. Searing white beams thrust ominous shadows to dance upon red backdrop, truly making Meg and Jack larger than life. It took no time to see why Rolling Stone ranked this garage rock Detroit twosome atop the list of The 20 Best Live Bands Playing Right Now. The moments when jack was standing one leg atop amp, screaming into the mic at Meg’s station with the intense rapid flicker of the white strobe effect burned an image in my head.

A martyr for my love for you, now A martyr for my love for you

Nature may have orchestrated power ballads throughout the weekend via its ability to bring the gusts, the rainfall and the thunderous clouds, but it was Jack who brought the lightning. Ripping through material with no set list, Meg and Jack open the skies and let it rain with Fell In Love With A Girl, Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground, Take Take Take, My Doorbell, Hotel Yorba, I Just Don’t Know What to Do, Denial Twist, The Hardest Button to Button, You're Pretty Good Lookin' For A Girl, 7 Nation Army, Little Cream Soda, I’m Slowly Turning Into You, Bone Broke, A Martyr For My Love For You, I’m Bound to Pack it Up so on and so on…and I just stood there soaking it up.

And if you're testing God Lying to his face You're gonna catch hell

Highlights, high points and hot flashes were a plenty as the storm raged on. Jack White is the best guitarist I have ever seen live and to witness the pedal work, the use of his Digitech (which gives his playing the falsetto bass line), the timing, the transitional work from standard time, to 7/8, 12-bar, 12/8 all the way to 50,000/1 (that’s when his guitar is set ablaze) was a scientific experiment unfolding before the eyes of a captive audience. There was adlib (a bit mocking Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan, telling them to ‘wake up before they throw up’) but little in the way of banter as most of the talking came from the instruments. The nonverbal communication between the two is a show in itself as Meg watches intently through jet black strands of hair to key in on the timing, determining the song Jack is playing…a task not easily done as Jack constantly rotates out his guitars, teases songs (Hello Operator, Ball and a Biscuit, Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me…). It’s so complicated that Jack even threw himself off, stumbling through the opening vocals of We Are Gonna Be Friends, having to take a moment to recompose and start again fresh. But even in his faults the crowd was in awe as the decibels of approve grew even louder in support of Jack trying again and getting it right…I took some comfort in knowing that he is only human after all.

And with every chance to set himself on fire, He just ends up doin' the same thing

The AC/DC of the blues, hard rock, folk ditty’s and Zappa-esque tunes were all thunderous in their on right, but it was the polar opposites of the night that truly lit the house. The sultry, moody and sexy In the Cold Cold Night with Meg on vocals and Jack perched on the stage hidden behind Meg’s drums with back to crowd was one of the more intimate moments of the night…a stark contrast to the surprise metallic explosion of Catch Hell Blues, which blew me and my friends away with its sheer exuberance and blitz of raw power. At times Jack was content standing face to face with his mic stage center, but when the current took hold he needed to find other ways to conduct the energy, leaping around the stage at the speed of light to various mics and instruments, creating a electromagnetic field of rock. With room at beyond full capacity we found ourselves pressed up near the bar stage left, which was good vantage until Jack would disappear around the corner, working hard on an instrument I never caught sight of…which was very disappointing, but the mystery made the study all the more engrossing.

The show came to a blasting finale at the end of a scorching encore with Let’s Build a Home, incorporating call and response from the crowd, improvised lyrics and a request for us to join Jack in the home he builds for us. When it was over the two stood middle of the stage allowing the electricity of the crowd to flow through them and as the barometric pressure rose and the static energy grew, searching for a spark, the yells of invigorated fans made their way through the air becoming polarized, building, growing and then crack…the sky lit up and the room went to black.

Sorry Zeus, your reign will come again, but for now Lord White sits upon your throne.

But I can't help but wonder if after I'm gone will I still have these three hundred mile per hour, finger breaking, no answers makin', battered dirty hands, bee stung and busted up, empty cup torrential outpour blues

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