The White Stripes: January 2004 London, UK and Paris, FR

An exclusive archive from The White Stripes is now available for streaming in the app, featuring one night in London and one night in Paris from early 2004. From long time White Stripes fan Mike on this month’s ‘Third Man Thursday’ releases:

Staring down one of the longest breaks they would have since first taking the stage at the Gold Dollar on Bastille Day 6 years earlier, Jack and Meg return to their “home away from home” in London, before heading to Paris to close out this phase of the Elephant tour at the appropriately named “Zenith”.

Having just completed the filming at Blackpool, rather than rest on their laurels for these final two shows, the band were still pulling out surprises and making each one unique right to the end, with London getting impromptu quotes from George M. Cohan’s The Yankee Doodle Boy and Leadbelly’s Red Bird, and Paris getting a performance of The Kills’ Superstition along with an uber-rare update of Diddy Wah Diddy – a song not performed live since 1999, when the band opened for the great Wayne Kramer.

The London performance would coincide with another milestone, as earlier in the day Jack would sit down for what would end up being the final interview with DJ John Peel, who would pass away later that year. The two spent the time playing records for each other, chatting about movies, and of course discussing the Stripes’ success – of which Peel certainly played a role in, having hosted the band on his show during their first visit to the UK back in 2001. When asked “So, where do you go next?”, Jack’s response was a mix of relief and closure: “We’re done with ‘Elephant’ and we’re not touring any more on that album. So, I just need a break. We’ve toured the world on it, and I’ve gotta get inspired again.” True to that feeling, the session ends with Jack performing songs solo on the acoustic – including covers of songs by Blanche, Loretta Lynn, and a song that he had written for Cold Mountain which the producers had declined to use. As if bringing the cycle with Peel full circle, Jack also performed Jack the Ripper, a callback to that first session in 2001, here a stripped-down version played at the DJ’s request.

In a way, the period between that first Peel appearance in July 2001 and the final one in February 2004 was like a 2 ½ year trek up a mountain, where Jack and Meg had gone from being the small band that few had heard about, to an internationally known live act who were days away from completing a successful world tour. Having enjoyed the kind of 360 degree view one would get from the top of a peak by traveling across the globe, it’s fitting that the final show of the tour would be at a venue named The Zenith. And while the performance in London happened to coincide with a final visit with Peel, who had helped kick off a sort of reverse Beatlemania for the band (the final interview also taking place on the 35th anniversary of the Beatles final live performance on the Apple rooftop), the performance in Paris just so happened to take place on the eve of La Chandeleur, the French observation of Candlemas, which marks the end of the Christmas period. One last day on tour, before the decorations finally get taken down.

And just as soon as they finished in Paris, they would fly to Los Angeles for the Grammys on February 8th, exactly 1 year and a day after the first live preview of Elephant at London’s Electric Cinema. Putting on the red and black trousers one last time, the band tore through an epic Seven Nation Army, complete with a surprise version of Death Letter included within it. A watershed moment, capped off by Seven Nation Army winning “Best Rock Song”, and Elephant winning “Best Alternative Music Album”.

The significance of the Grammys performance mirrors that of the first Peel broadcast. Where one was like a secret transmission audible only to those in the know, the other was a takeover of every channel on the dial, an instant conversion of the masses. It’s a funny thing when a band spends a year touring, and then has a moment like that, right as they go off the road. As if they should get right back out there and do it all again, to capitalize on that momentum. How many times have you seen a band suddenly become that visible (just days later, SNL would even make a sketch about them), only to look up their touring schedule and find out that they had already come around months, if not a year earlier? And for the fans who were there from the beginning, it’s as if now suddenly the entire world sees what you knew all along. Random co-workers ask if you’ve heard of this band. Relatives and friends tell you that they saw that group you like on TV. It’s one thing to reach a peak when only a few people know about it. When now everyone knows about it, that’s the true zenith.

1/30/04 London
Brixton Academy

Listen to the show here.

Returning to the city where Elephant was recorded, Brixton Academy joins the Masonic in Detroit and the Aragon in Chicago as one of the three venues to get a repeat visit on the Elephant tour. Having previously broadcast a performance at the Academy when they last visited in April 2003, the release here closes the gap of 2004 being the only year when they played in the UK not to have some kind of “Live in London” out there. Like the December 2001 broadcast, where the band had also played London earlier in that tour and then came back for a closing show, this show feels a lot like a radio broadcast that never was, a perfect encore performance capturing the band putting on a near-flawless set. After the openers of Black Math and Dead Leaves, Jack greets the crowd with “London! Our home away from home!” and it’s right into When I Hear My Name, which features an impromptu verse from George M. Cohan’s The Yankee Doodle Boy, complete with Jack modifying the lyrics to reference his own birthday “A real life nephew of my Uncle Sam, Born on the 9th of July!”. While the UK had adopted them as family, an unabashed reminder of their American roots. The ending of the song features a frantic run of soloing with the whammy, which like the inclusion of Leadbelly’s Redbird in I Think I Smell A Rat, is proof of just how much they still had left in the tank, even as they prepared to close out the tour. Listen for Jack singing along to the end of In the Cold Cold Night, and Meg returning the favor by again singing along during This Protector, where you can just about hear a pin drop in the venue. The main set goes out heavy with Ball and Biscuit, with amateur video of the performance showing Jack close the song by thrashing around next to Meg’s kit, even knocking a stand over, before going to the floor and letting the feedback ring out as he leaves the stage. Before Seven Nation Army, Jack asks “Is everybody friends with the person next to them? You make sure of that now. Cuz Meg and I aren’t leaving until every one of you get a friend on either side of you, okay?” The version of Seven Nation Army here features the opening line of “I’m gonna kiss ’em off” which was unique to the three London shows. Before closing with Boll Weevil, Jack introduces it as “an old song”, as if now officially able to refer to the days before Elephant as being from another time in the band’s history. Even though this is the end of the tour, they leave the stage letting the crowd know that they won’t be gone too long: “We’ll see you guys at Reading and Leeds festivals in August, all right?”

2/1/04 Paris
Le Zenith

Listen to the show here.

With a 6 month break just days away, it’s fitting that the final show of the tour opens with the line “When I hear my name, I want to disappear” and closes with “I just don’t know what to do with myself”. Having ended their first show in Paris back in 2001 with Jack proclaiming “Lafayette, we have returned!”, he couldn’t have predicted just how far the band would rise since then, as he tells the audience at the Zenith, “Good Lord, there’s so many of you!”. No doubt happy to be closing out the tour, there is a feeling of movement in this show, as the band confidently go from song to song. Listen as Meg enters early in Love Sick, with Jack giving an audible “Yeah!” in approval. There’s another moment like this during Ball and Biscuit, with Jack heard asking for “just one now” and Meg responding with a single hit on the drums, right on time. Perfect reminders of just how tightly connected the two were on stage. While many of the familiar songs in the set would carry over into the band’s eventual return in August, In the Cold Cold Night would get its final performance of the year, not to be performed again until the Get Behind Me Satan tour in 2005. And even though the set is mostly filled with songs that they had played dozens of times on the tour, many of the performances feel as if updated for the occasion of this being the last show. During I Fought Piranhas, the line “Who puts up a fight walking out of hell?” never sounded so appropriate, and the version of The Same Boy You’ve Always Known is played as if having been written for that moment when it’s time to say goodbye. Never ones to go quietly, Cannon gets a rare inclusion of Diddy Wah Diddy, a song only played one other time back in 1999, and gets followed by The Big Three Killed My Baby with Jack riffing on everything from George Bush, the auto companies, and a declaration that “America’s mind is lazy!” before going into a chant of “I’m about to tell the news Meg!” – thoroughly getting it all in for this final performance. After Jack the Ripper they also slot in an impromptu cover of the song Superstition by The Kills. Unlike the quote of the song at LA on 9/22/03, here it gets played complete with the original riff. In the encores, Lafayette Blues serves as the perfect setup before they close the show with I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, with Jack thanking France for being “the country that produced Michel Gondry”. Having now wrapped a year’s worth of touring going out on a high at the Zenith, the farewell of “My sister thanks you, and I thank you! Good night Paris!” is delivered as if literally shouted from the top of a mountain.

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