The White Stripes played their final show in Southaven, Mississippi on a sweltering summer night in July of 2007. No one actually knew this was their final gig until February 2011 when the band decided to end its run after over 14 years of minimalist, deliciously executed old fashioned blues rock. Earlier this year Third Man Records announced an exclusive fan package where this final show is presented on a glorious double vinyl LP and because I’m a total sucker I immediately laid down the $60 to reserve my copy. 3 months later it finally arrived and I put it on the turntable…
Now I’ve heard plenty of White Stripes live shows over the years, and fortunately saw them once live during their final tour at Bonnaroo 2007 – however I simply just wasn’t prepared for the opening blast of “Stop Breaking Down”, a Robert Johnson cover found on their debut eponymous LP. I was immediately floored. As Jack White relentlessly pounds a couple of power chords and his big sister/ex-wife/whatever Meg stomps away on her drum kit, it feels like more of an exorcism than a funeral. As the pair segues into the explosive “Let’s Build a Home” the collective energy pumping from the turntable is nearly overtaking. Paying their respects to the Mississippi Delta legend once again, the Stripes later break out another Robert Johnson track “Phonograph Blues” to sheer delight.
The band runs through a generous and evenly balanced mix of songs throughout their six proper albums with the monstrous “Ball and Biscuit” from Elephant and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” from White Blood Cells. Even Meg gets a turn on the mic during “In the Cold, Cold Night”. A few deep cuts from 1999’s De Stijl such as “Apple Blossom” and “Death Letter” are also welcome contributions.
After charging through “Blue Orchid” and “I’m Slowly Turning Into You”, the Stripes end the show with their trusted and reliable closer “Boll Weevil”, as Jack merrily sings “he’s looking for a home” over and over with 3 jangly guitar chords repeated. Like an inhabiting spirit that is done with its host, the ghost of the White Stripes violently shook its cage one last time on a sweaty summer night in the south and flew off into the great unknown. Luckily, a small but attentive group of fans can enjoy the show through the warmth of a vinyl record forevermore. For the rest of the world, the download just won’t quite sound as good.
Here lies The White Stripes, 1997-2011.
Rest in Peace.