The White Stripes: Wellington and Osaka, 2003

Two exclusive archives from The White Stripes are now available for streaming in the app, featuring performances from Wellington, New Zealand and Osaka, Japan. From long time White Stripes fan Mike on this month’s ‘Third Man Thursday’ releases:

After the success of the September US tour, the band were off to New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, repeating the journey of the “Three Island Tour” from 2000. With the excellent Melbourne, Australia show released back in March as part of Third Man Thursday, here are the closing shows from the other two “islands” to complete the trio.

Wellington may be the most relaxed show of the entire Elephant tour. There is a pacing and vibe to this show that sits in a comfortable sweet spot, with the band no doubt buzzing off of the performances the day before in Auckland, where they had performed at the Freemans Bay Primary School to a crowd of schoolchildren, and then delivered an excellent performance later that evening at the St James Theatre. There is just something to the Wellington show that makes it feel both unrushed, while yet still delivering all the right amount of energy. You can hear it in the set, which has a great flow from start to finish. From the “Everybody well in Wellington?” greeting to the audience, to the relaxed version of “Look Me Over Closely”, to a flawless “Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise”, and Jack’s introduction to “We’re Going to Be Friends”, complete with the mid-song aside “This is the important part…we don’t notice any time pass” – an almost Freudian acknowledgement of the pace of this show. Or how about the version of “You’re Pretty Good Looking”, which gets a nearly half-minute pause midway through for no apparent reason, before kicking back in with the “swing” version to finish the song off. Instead of going into “Hello Operator” per the normal pairing, they instead throw in “When I Hear My Name”, featuring a cappella lines from “The Object of My Affection”, the first known appearance since the Bowery show in 2002, and the last known time they’d perform it. Also unique at this show is that Jack stays on guitar for the last verses of “I’m Finding It Harder to be a Gentlemen”, instead of returning to the keyboards. By the next performance of the song in Adelaide on 10/15, he’ll take advantage of that section to include an updated version of “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me.” “Girl,You Have No Faith in Medicine” also gets a change from the typical delivery, starting with a low-key intro and gradually ramping up to the familiar frenzy. The encores further highlight the sense of balance at this show, with “Astro” and “Jack the Ripper” getting followed by another appearance of the “Joss Stone” slow version of “Fell In Love With A Girl” (that Stone album had only just been released a few weeks earlier). The soloing in “Ball and Biscuit” similarly features excellent slow blues lines right alongside the guitar hero style runs with the whammy. Closing out with “I’m going to Wellington” in “Seven Nation Army” and the line “We’re gonna be o-kay when this song is through…that is my promise to you!” in “Boll Weevil”, it’s a satisfying close to a laid-back show.

LISTEN: The White Stripes live at Town Hall in Wellington, New Zealand

On the other side of the equator, Osaka is a confident power set to close out the Japan run. While New Zealand and Australia largely went off without a hitch, Japan was not without a few challenges – likely owing to the near-constant jumping across timezones as they moved from city to city, and country to country. Fast forward a bit and you’ll find this exchange from an interview the band gave on MuchMusic TV in Toronto on 11/13/03, looking back on this leg of the tour:

Jack: We just played Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and it was…I think we had 21 airplane rides in like 2 ½ weeks or something like that. That starts to get, you know…you start to get really messed up. Because you don’t know what time it is, you don’t know when you’re supposed to be asleep and when you’re supposed to be awake, and you’re just expected to play every night, you know? It’s very difficult to keep that up, you know?

Having kicked off the Japan tour with the pair of shows in Tokyo on 10/21 and 10/22, it would be the Nagoya show on 10/23 where fatigue would catch up with the band, with that show getting cut-short due to illness. The band would quickly get back on their feet at Fukuoka 10/25 and Hiroshima 10/26, with the show in Osaka on 10/27 being the confident return-to-form to close out the tour.

For a band that never used a setlist, there’s an almost clinical precision to the setlist here. A proper kicking out of the jams, one after another. From the rush of “Let’s Shake Hands” into “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”, to that transition at the end of “I Think I Smell a Rat”, with the final chord hanging there for a second before slingshotting into “Black Math.” The set is loaded with tight run-throughs. “Love Sick”, “Death Letter” – “Grinning In Your Face”, “The Hardest Button to Button”, “We’re Going to Be Friends”, “Ball And Biscuit”. An almost “greatest hits” set for the Elephant tour right down to the closer of “Seven Nation Army” (“Boll Weevil” was skipped for the Japan tour, but would be played on the return visit in 2006).

LISTEN: The White Stripes live at Namba Hatch in Osaka, Japan

As if this wasn’t enough, what really puts Osaka into must-hear territory is that it features an ultra-rare performance of “Little Acorns”, the second of only two known performances. The Adelaide show in Australia on 10/15 would be the first, but that show was sadly not captured by RADAR. So, for “Little Acorns”, Osaka is it. And while it’s a brief version, much like the debut of lines from “There’s No Home For You Here” at Los Angeles the previous month, there’s no doubt of the power the song had in a live setting. A fitting surprise for the last night on the tour, like a bonus track on those Japan-only releases from back in the day.

While they were officially back to health by the time of the Osaka show, the relentless touring schedule would continue, almost comically so, with the band going from Japan to Brazil for a one-off show on 10/31, and then back to the US for the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans on 11/2, and then off to Scotland for the MTV Europe Awards on 11/6, before returning to the US to kickoff the next leg of the tour in Milwaukee on 11/10.

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