Wow. Jack and Meg White, the ex-married couple/brother and sister duo (oh, by the way, it's ex-husband and wife, according to the marriage certificate at www.gloriousnoise.com), who are better known as the White Stripes, turned the legendary Fillmore and its patrons on their collective head Tuesday night, in the first of two hyper-sold out shows. It was the bandís first time in town in 2002 and to paraphrase Yoda, disappoint they did not.
The show was a late starter, with the headliners not taking the stage until 11:30 PM. And what a stage set up it was. Other than the bandís equipment, there was a huge red and white totem pole-esque cutout at center stage at the back, consisting of their trademark peppermint swirl and a huge clock at the top, permanently reading 3:00. Paper swirls and other baubles hung about the stage as well, giving it a definite Lewis Carroll vibe or perhaps it was a nod to the heady days of acid-based debauchery in the Haight/Ashbury district in the Summer of Love. Whatever the impetus, it was definitely trippy and the music followed suit. The duo hit the stage in their trademarked outfits, Jack in all red with black shoes and barefoot drummer Meg in a white shirt and red pants. Jack played his red and white oddly-shaped guitar, which will from now on be referred to as the Flintstone Guitar ô, due to the rock-like appearance of the head and body. ìDead Leaves and the Dirty Groundî kicked off the blues-punk explosion and from the opening note the crowd were in the Whiteís hands. Combining bits and pieces of music from the past 40 years, from Hank Williams to Kurt Cobain to Black Sabbath to Roy Orbison, the duo alternately rocked and mellowed out with equally positive crowd response. Jack often staggered asymmetrically when playing a solo on the Flintstone Guitar ô, perhaps channeling the angular asymmetric sound of his songs through his odd walking style. Jack only dropped the Flintstone Guitar ô for one song, a number he finished with an insane slide guitar freakout with the guitar resting on the ground.
Another interesting observation was the way Jack controlled Megís drumming, giving her visual cues, as well as sometimes touching the high hat or cymbal, when he wanted her to stop drumming or restart. Stand out tracks from the 75-minute set included Pretty Good Looking, a cover of Dolly Partonís ìJolene,î ìHotel Yorba, îApple Blossom" (which featured Jack on keyboards to start), the rambling, nursery-tale school days favorite that is "We're Going To Be Friends" and, of course, the radio hit ìFell In Love With A Girl,î which ended with a Sabbath-style boogie breakdown. Jack started the encore with a telling statement, ìI said this last time we were here and Iíll say it again. San Francisco was the first city to love the Stripes.î After seeing last nightís barnburner, itís obvious this love affair wonít end anytime soon.