When I first read Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield’s 5 star review for the White Stripes latest cd, I had to laugh. He said, “Having clocked all rivals, the Stripes have to settle for topping their 2003 masterpiece, Elephant, the way Elephant topped White Blood Cells. If you happen to be a rock band, and you don't happen to be either of the White Stripes, it so sucks to be you right now.” I mean come on. Yes, they’re good. But isn’t this a bit much? There is little doubt that the White Stripes are the most hyped band in the last 10 years. Their jet-black hair and red and white clothes are so synonymous with their image, they almost seem more of a brand than a band. But with each excellent album being not only better than the last, but also so much better than anything on the radio, it’s no wonder that the duo of Jack and Meg White get a lot of press. Jack and Meg have cultivated their hype quite well, fueling the mystery of whether or not they are siblings, married, neither, or both. They date movie stars, beats up rock stars, and marry supermodels on canoes in the Amazon rainforest. It’s impossible for the press not to just eat it up. So when I finally got a chance to see them, I couldn’t help but wonder, are they really worth the hype?
Part of the allure is that the White Stripes do with two people what most bands can’t do with five. Twenty minutes into the show I closed my eyes and listened and was amazed at how dynamic and huge they sound and thought how could this be? Because when I opened my eyes, instead of seeing five or six people jamming on stage, you only see this one little brunette girl wailing away at the drums, and this one lone guy on guitar, standing at the microphone. But he might as well be standing at the crossroads in backwoods Mississippi because there is one thing that is crystal clear: Jack White sold his soul to the devil to be able to play guitar like that. He doesn’t so much wear his influences on his sleeve as he does channel guitar legends. He is Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Page, and Robert Johnson, all in one song. His singing so intense and riveting, he’s Howlin’ Wolf in one breath and screaming Robert Plant the next, yet somehow still sounds distinctly original. Jack repeatedly switched instruments each song, from guitar to piano to marimba, yet the show never lost its steadily increasing momentum. Even when he was playing piano or organ, he would kick this thing with his foot that would crank out the last distorted guitar riff he had played on his guitar. And sometimes Meg would play the melody on bells while her feet kept the beat. They don’t just rock. They rock with every limb on their body, at the same time. From Delta acoustic blues to Brit blues rock, from seventies metal riffs to pure pop rock, the Stripes had the crowd in the palm of their hands throughout. After the stunning 30-minute encore, which included “I’m Lonely”, “Hotel Yorba” and “7 Nation Army”, it became obvious that I too would have to join the hype. I have no shame in stealing this line: people, I have seen the future of rock-n-roll, and his name is Jack White.