Thursday, September 29, 2005

I've Been Thinking About My Doorbell

The White Stripes and The Shins @ Keyspan Park 9/24/05
Ah, another trip to Coney Island for a show (this was my 1st time at Keyspan Park; previously I'd only been there to attend the Siren Festival on 3 separate occasions, most recently this past summer, which you can read about here. Of course, you know what that means, right? Another trip to the original Totonno's pizzeria, of course! Unlike last time, when we got seated right away and got our food rather promptly, this time it seemed like everyone who was eating before the show chose Totonno's, so we had to wait for an hour just to get a table and then another half hour for our food to come. You know what, though? It was worth it. The pizza was even better than it was back in July, if that's even possible. And this time, we wisely chose a small pizza over the large, which is humungous.

Because of the long wait and dinner, we missed all of Brendan Benson's set and the first song or two of The Shins' relatively short set. Despite playing for only 45 minutes or so at the most, they were still really good. They played a mix of songs from their excellent 1st 2 albums and the newer song "When I Goosestep". While keyboardist Marty Crandall was funny as always (I loved his reference to John Fogerty's "Centerfield" as we really were standing in what is centerfield when the Coney Island Cyclones, a Mets minor league team, play there) and the center of attention, singer/guitarist James Mercer was much more talkative than usual. I also must say that for a large outdoor venue, the sound was surprisingly very crisp and clear, much like Central Park Summerstage and unlike almost every ampitheater on earth.

And then The White Stripes came on and like the 2 previous times that I've seen them, absolutely blew everyone away. Though they're only 2 people obviously, they play with enough intensity and energy and sheer volume (good thing that I had earplugs, even at an outdoor venue) to rival most 4 or 5 piece groups. As soon as they launched into "Blue Orchid" off of their excellent new album Get Behind Me Satan, the crowd just went nuts and neither the band nor the crowd let up during the hour and half long set, which was considerably longer than the sets that they played the 2 previous times that I've seen them. They played a set of songs that covered much of the new album, but wasn't too shy on the oldies, either, from a rousing version of "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button" (both in the encore) to the blues-jam "Ball and Biscuit" (all from 2003's commercial breakthrough Elephant) to songs from their 1st 3 albums (originally released on indie Sympathy for the Record Industry) like the excellent "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground", "Hotel Yorba", "Screwdriver" and others. The set was also heavy on covers, from their jaw-dropping version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene", which gives me chills every time I hear it, to 2 Son House songs "John the Revelator" and "Death Letter"). Many have criticized Meg White's drumming, but I think it's fine for the minimalist, stomping blues-rock that The White Stripes engage in. It's a different story when she sings, though. I like the recorded versions of "Cold Cold Night" and "Passive Manipulation", but her voice didn't sound good at all and fortunately both were mercifully short (though the latter was sung twice, oddly enough). She still is mighty fine, though. Swoon. :-)

Anyway, because of the length of the set, there was a bit of danger of them overstaying their welcome, but they left the stage right after a long and satisfying encore, so it was ok, though still a bit unlike previous White Stripes shows where they kick your ass for an hour, leave you panting for more and totally drained and then go home. Much like their new album, it's nice to see them maturing into their status as probably the biggest mainstream-crossover stars in the indie-rock scene without compromising the integrity of their music in the slightest and by challenging themselves further.


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