The White Stripes
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- The White Stripes »
This ain’t right. Rock and roll’s got no place amongst the elderly, those that served and protected. They don’t need their ears ringing through the night. They don’t need The Youth swarming about them like flies. Mercifully, then, The White Stripes treat the Chelsea Pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea with a little tenderness: this afternoon show is an intimate, acoustic affair, and even Jack White’s ‘tween song quips are kept on the down-low.
What with the salubrious surroundings of the establishment’s Council Chambers – the wood-panelled walls are adorned with (almost probably expensive) paintings of earls, dukes and kings – and the gaggle of red-decked Pensioners filling the front-row seating, SW3 takes a turn for the rather surreal around 3pm this afternoon. The collected media, drawn from ‘papers and magazines and one website of some ropey repute, assemble behind the honoured guests – the politely applauding elderly gents – and swap smiles as Jack and “sister” Meg take the stage. “We are The White Stripes, from America.” And in.
The set’s short and sweet, acoustic throughout and doesn’t so much as dream about touching material from the band’s on-the-horizon Icky Thump long-player (reviewed here). Instead, songs are dug up from the duo’s not-all-that-recent past: ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ is lifted from the tail end of 1999’s self-titled debut long-player, and set opener _‘Apple Blossom’ hails from 2000’s De Stijl. Anyone expecting muted renditions of ‘Conquest’ and the like is far from disappointed, though: how can you be at an event as special and unique as this? “Cocktail hour” it may be, as Jake japes, but lips are too busy mouthing words to be bothered by the free drink next door.
Half a dozen songs later (if that) and Jack and Meg take a bow: “I thank you, and my sister thanks you”. Quite why they persist with the brother/sister thing I truly don’t know, but right now nobody particularly cares: we’ve had a handful of old gems and a peculiarly understated ‘Hotel Yorba’, all played on a Rita Hayworth-adorned acoustic (“I was thinking about putting her face in here… making it 3-D”), and Meg utters nary a word from under her rippling curtain of hair. The most interesting thing about her this afternoon, drumming aside of course, is her trainers: everyone knows you beat up brand-new white trainers a little, scuff their edges and dull their hides, before wearing them in public, let alone on a stage. Oh tsk, Meg. Really.
Claps and claps and The Youth depart, leaving the elderly to discuss what they’ve seen. They appear genuinely impressed, and the Detroit pair seems to have left a positive impression on all in attendance regardless of their avoidance of new songs. Arena-filling megastars they may be in the year 2007, but these stripped-back echoes of their past, executed in surroundings the likes of which this writer is unlikely to visit again any time soon, are beyond all comparison. This has been, oddly, _so_ right.
_Photographs by Andy Wilsher _
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