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Under Great White Northern Lights (Live)

The White Stripes

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Album Review

Given the White Stripes’ reputation for powerful concerts, it’s a little surprising that they waited until more than a decade into their career to release a live album. However, Under Great White Northern Lights was worth the wait: while nothing can really replace seeing the band live, this set captures most of its riveting on-stage presence. The album was recorded during the Stripes’ 2007 Canadian tour, which was such a special experience for them that they chronicled it with a DVD as well. The band was touring in support of that year’s Icky Thump, and the Scottish and Celtic motifs that are woven throughout that album pop up here, too, from the bagpipes intro to a brisk version of “Little Ghost” that sounds almost like a reel. Like most White Stripes concerts, Under Great White Northern Lights features an evenhanded mix of early songs and newer ones — Jack and Meg White go way back for incendiary takes on “Let’s Shake Hands” and “When I Hear My Name,” which sound right at home next to the lunging “Icky Thump” and “I’m Slowly Turning into You.” The album opens with four furious rockers that show just how primal the duo is live — on “Black Math” and a breathless “Blue Orchid” they sound like they can barely keep up with the energy flowing through them — but many of Under Great White Northern Lights’ brightest moments happen when they slow down. Jack and Meg settle into a groove on “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues” that makes the song fresher than it was on Icky Thump, while a particularly stunning version of “The Union Forever,” with extra-desperate vocals from Jack surrounded by a swelling, horror-movie organ, just might be the album’s standout. The Stripes also include plenty of favorites, including “Jolene,” a bluesy “Fell in Love with a Girl,” a singalong “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” and a bruising “Seven Nation Army” as the finale, all of which capture the kind of show the band puts on for its fans. Since a big part of the Stripes’ live show also rests on their visuals, the Under Great White Northern Lights DVD gives the complete experience, but this album is satisfying enough to make it a must for most fans. [The live album was also released on vinyl in 2010.]

Customer Reviews

Goodbye

Just the perfect way to go out. Icky thump is terrific

Biography

Formed: 1997 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The White Stripes formed on Bastille Day in 1997, aiming to create simple, vigorous rock & roll with little more than Meg White's percussion and Jack White's guitar-and-vocal attack. Meg's drumming was deliberate and straightforward, while Jack's formidable guitar skills paid homage to garage rock, blues, and punk. A former drummer for the Detroit-based country outfit Goober & the Peas, he also displayed an affinity for American folk music, and the White Stripes took strength in the varied...
Full Bio