Leaving the White Stripes concert, it seemed as if the world was wrapped in cotton.
One wide-eyed friend delivered a speedball rant as he exited the auditorium.
It went something like this: “Man,” the guy sputtered “…. Bowhidgit, J.J. Cale, zzit, tuptist and Zeppelin all in one…”
Then the guy snapped his arms up as if to stress his point (the gesture conjured Seinfeld’s Kramer) and jerking his head up said, simply, “Wow! Wow!”
Though I am certain about Cale and Zeppelin references, the rest is fuzzy — for good reason.
Though he was standing next to me, the guy sounded as if he was ranting in a whisper through a tube in the next room.
I could barely hear him.
His point was clear, though.
The fellow, who had never heard a single chord by the Detroit-based duo before, had been blown away by Meg and Jack White’s sonic fury in the arts centre on Monday night.
The show began with a frenetic version of Elephant’s lead track Black Math, and it never let up.
For almost two hours, the pair seesawed through their four albums, Jack jerking across the stage while coaxing whipsaw chords from his guitar.
It was a wildly improvised performance.
Meg pounded her skins with ease, sometimes laying down a triphammer beat with her left hand firmly placed on her hip and her head cocked as she fired saucy looks Jack’s way.
Jack grabbed her cymbal. She’d pause.
And then he’d reel off clipped, angry chords, and go spinning off across the stage.
Meg’s thunderous drums would resume.
Songs ended on a sustained squealing chord, or a moment of prolonged synthetic noise would cut to a moment of silence, then Jack would mutter something to “his big sister” Meg and the next electric moment would be literally ripped from the guitar strings.
And off Jack would slide and jerk.
Such is their shtick.
They’ve been at it since 1997.
The pair made it all look deceptively easy.
But by the end of the set, Jack’s unkempt hair — perpetually hanging across his eyes — was a sweaty mass, and required frequent toweling off. The back of his red T-shirt was soaked through.
At one point, a broken string dangling from his guitar’s neck, Jack collapsed on his knees and elbows and ripped through an incredible sequence while shielding the crippled instrument beneath his torso.
He repeatedly careened into his mike stands, forcing his bowler-cap wearing roadie to creep onto the stage to retrieve the stand and untangle the chords.
At one point he bashed into his keyboard, sending it crashing to the stage.
And, during a 30-minute encore, he fried his amp. He finished the song as if the mess of deep distortion was simply part of the act.
Never has a pair produced so much sound in the venue.
“I hope you appreciate what I do….” he sang during A Martyr for My Love For You, for once standing stock-still and staring directly at the audience as the house lights bathed the audience in a bright white light.
It was a fantastic show.
Loud, but fantastic.
Which is why my buddy was shellshocked leaving the auditorium.
The no-holds-barred rock show was incredible because of the duo’s range, spontaneity and raw energy.
It was a special and all-too-rare experience.
That’s a nod to the full-spectrum Whites, and a knock against the ailing music industry, which too often markets cotton-batten and calls it music.