There are so few times in life when a pairing of 2 great talents occur within the same medium. Sure ñ thereís been the films that director Elia Kazan did with Marlon Brando, Deniro and Pacino acting together in Heat, Messier and Gretzky playing on the NY Rangers and Ernie and Bert sharing a room on Sesame Street. But these moments do not happen often ñ and when they do, you know they will be moments frozen in time forever. When I heard months ago that my 2 favorite contemporary bands would be on the same bill together, I knew ñ this had potential to be one of these moments.
The Strokes/The White Stripes at Radio City Music Hall ñ 8/15/02. I bought my tickets months ago and spared no cost to be up close. I gambled big , especially since my wifeís due date is 8/20 ñ so there was always that chance of me eating the tickets. Well, 8/15 came ñ and all was calm on the baby front ñ so we caught the F train uptown to the 51/Rockefeller Center stop for the big night.
I donít want to go through the entire night and talk set lists and a lot of specifics. All I can say is that this was one of the greatest evenings of rock n roll ever and one of the best musical pairings since Clapton recorded with Harrison on All Things Must Pass in 1971.
I was sitting 3rd row in the pit. It was my second time seeing Jack and Meg White and the sister/brother duo once again proved that they can kick the shit out of anyone, anytime, anywhere. Jack White is one of the most talented intense musicians out there. When he picked up the slide guitar last night, the room almost burned down. He made it reak of blues. This cat is on fire when heís up there and 100% commanding each tune. I could hear Jack screaming from my seats, saying ìride,î telling Meg to hit the ride cymbol. Or when he was doing a solo in the middle, walking up to Megís crash cymbol that was still vibrating from the last hit, and grab it to make it stop. He was viciously circling Megís kit and counting and screaming at Meg to keep the tune in line. This is worth the trip right here ñ watching this genius dictate the movements and arrangements. Jack, in all red, and Meg in white top, red pants and barefoot sounded not like a twosome, but more like a truckload of blues/rock n roll. My personal highlight, yes, I kissed Meg White. I came to the evening with a nice arrangement of red roses and white flowers to try and give to one of the coolest drummers out there. The band left the stage ñ and the lights stayed down. As they re entered for the encore, that was my cue and I was against the front of the stage holding up the flowers. I screamed Meg, and Jack walked over first and looked at the flowers and immediately turned around and pointed to Meg. I motioned for her to come over and she walked right up and graciously accepted her fan token of appreciation ñ and hopefully appreciated the effort (these werenít yellow flowers ñ they were RED and WHITE). As our arms locked, the next thing I knew she leans over and I think , oh shit, this is on, so I lean in and stretch my neck muscles as far as I could and finally kiss her on the cheek. I immediately got high fives and ìnice goingî from everyone in the section. I just thought, shit, I know a handful of co workers are in the house, I hope they saw cause no one will believe this. (Side note to Robert English ñ this tops the Courtney Love meet and greet kiss). I was floating for the rest of the evening. This was rock n roll at itís finest. As the band played their final note ñ they took a bow and Meg grabbed my flowers and walked off.
The Strokes came on next and took the roof off. Julian unfortunately had a knee injury so he was confined to his stool for the night after he walked out on crutches. But hey, that meant he could keep another little table next to him containing 5 beers, a shot of whisky, some cigarettes and an ashtray. They slammed all their hits and even played 3 new tunes, which I thought all ruled. "Modern Age" one of my favorites and in my opinion, one of the most underrated tunes on the record ñ ruled. They cooked that one. All the tunes cooked and Julian repeatedly thanked The White Stripes throughout the set ñ which was very cool. Highlight, Nikolai Fraiture, my hero on bass, was in a grey three piece suit. Let me say this again, a grey three piece suit. Guy was so sharp with that dew, the suit and playing those thundering bass lines that thread each tune. Also, Albert Hammond Jr. on lead guitar was so on with that energy and all those windmills he does, I thought he was simply going to fly away. His fro rules right now, heís got great energy. Major highlight here - this was tremendous - The Strokes closed with the now banned but classic "New York City Cops" and Jack White came out on guitar. Jack was jumping around with the rest of the band , almost knocking rhythm guitarist Nick Valensi over a few times. This was an incredible moment and a truly great ending. The tune ended and they all gathered for a group bow ñ Meg included, she walked out at the end. They all gave each other kisses and walked off together. Put this in the book of all time great rock n roll bills.
I saw legendary rock n roll photographer Bob Gruen there. We talked about the John Lennon book he did that I have and also about the recent piece we did on him in the upcoming Fall issue of The Fader (on stands 8/20). I also saw one of the Beastie Boys in the lobby in between sets. Another highlight, was in between sets, over the PA, they were playing The Ramones ñ Live. Not just The Ramones, but a live recording. I felt like I was in my living room. It was very comfortable. And all those rumors about Beck playing in between setsÖ.were just rumors.
The show by no means ended there. 51st was one of the side streets that Radio City exited out on and fans quickly caught sight of 2 large windows above the street. It was the dressing rooms for both bands. What started as a little thumbs up signs and clapping to the band members through the window, soon turned into a fan screaming frenzy as all the Strokes and Jack and Meg came over to the windows. Jack opened them up ñ and he was holding a 40 oz bottle of beer. He started to pour the beer out of the window onto the street ñ and in unison, the fans started lining up underneath and drinking it or running through it like a sprinkler on a hot summer day. This is when I started humming ìI Love Rock N Rollî under my breath.î I screamed at Meg and said I was the one who gave her the flowers ñ she said thanks and blew a kiss. I asked if she could toss me a drumstick, she said they were downstairs but preceded to throw down chocolate kisses. Then Jack took off his red shirt and threw it to fans who jumped on it. One fan even asked Jack to throw down his cigarette he was smoking so he took a drag and I kid you not, threw it down to the street and a fan picked it up and took a drag (come on kids - this is sick, this is out of my league.) The bands took pictures of all us looney fans standing there and soon waved good bye and shut the window.
This was one of those memorable nights of 2 incredibly talented bands that you would never think, but only wish would end up on the same bill. Next & last stop ñ Detroit where The Strokes open and The White Stripes close. Donít miss it! Meg, you rule!!