The White Stripes: Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Columbus, 2003

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

November 2003 – Looking for a Home

Back in the US for a fourth round, the November leg would begin the journey to close out the year, and close out the tour. Kicking off with a trio of shows in Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Columbus – they start the run by playing in the three states that border Michigan, as if deliberately making a point of playing everywhere but home. Detroit would have to wait until the end of the month, and even then they had already signed up for a New Year’s Eve show in Chicago. As they would look back on this leg, Meg would recall “We were like a moth right next to the flame. It’s like, do any more and you go down. We were so tired. One final lap, and then have a rest.”

Like the three shows in Scandinavia that kicked off the European tour six months earlier, these first shows of the November run are a complementary snapshot in time. Where those shows in May saw the band experimenting with the new songs and pushing the setlists and arrangements outward, by November the new songs were now long established in the set, and yet somehow the band were still able to keep the performances continuously evolving. Notice that each of the shows here opens with the same three songs (Black Math > Dead Leaves > I Think I Smell a Rat), and even with those otherwise familiar ingredients to work with, each performance is still very much a unique serving – even at this late stage in the tour. From the debut of Bob Dylan’s Outlaw Blues at Milwaukee, to an impromptu version of Sister Do You Know My Name? played as an intro to Death Letter at Indianapolis, to Jack singing into the guitar pickup on his Airline during Hello Operator at Columbus. Still finding ways to pull new rabbits out of old hats, night after night.

11/10/03 Milwaukee: Eagles Ballroom – LISTEN

Having had to reschedule this concert twice (once earlier in the year due to scheduling conflicts, and again after Jack’s car accident), they finally make it to Milwaukee. Coming so soon after the October tour of NZ/AU/JP wrapped, this show nicely consolidates many of the highlights from that run, all within the same show. Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me? gets included within I’m Finding It Harder to be a Gentleman, and Loretta Lynn’s God Makes No Mistakes is performed here within Screwdriver, both having been debuted at Adelaide 10/15. Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine features the adlib from the Beatles’ Boys at the end – the first since Hiroshima 10/26, and the Hardest Button to Button gets the Melbourne 10/14 “brain that felt like Pea-nut Butter” line. Milwaukee also features the debut of Bob Dylan’s Outlaw Blues, which follows after a blistering version of Ball and Biscuit. Out of the handful of times they would do this cover, the version here just might be the best one. “I might look like Robert Ford, but I feel like Jesse-Fucking-James!”

Other highlights include a funny play on words during Cannon, “I saw Guns! Tanks!…..Tanks, You’re Welcome!” The Death Letter/Little Bird combo is also excellent here, and during the intro you can just make out a tease of the slide riff from Sister Do You Know My Name? The next night in Indianapolis he would perform an impromptu version of the song in this spot. Later in the song, Jack ramps up the ending of Little Bird with a fantastic adlib of “Can’t you hear me knocking Meg?!” while he taps his slide on the fretboard. Listen for the shoutout to the local crowd before Boll Weevil, a throwback to their performances in town from earlier years: “Are we at the Cactus Club? My memory’s not so good. Hi Milwaukee, I forgot to say hello to you!” And later in the song, an acknowledgement of how the band were feeling by this point in the tour, so close to home, and yet still so far away: “See it’s funny, because you all have a home, I guess. But my sister and I, no such luck. Y’all here, you got Milwaukee, Green Bay, Oconomowoc. We used to have Detroit, but that was a long, long, long time ago.”

11/11/03 Indianapolis: Egyptian Room at the Murat – LISTEN

Where Milwaukee the night before saw the band seamlessly cutting in the latest additions from the October run, the crowd at Indianapolis got treated to a longer and more experimental set. There’s an abundance of one-off and unique performances here. Shine on Harvest Moon gets an airing in Cannon, having last been performed at Los Angeles on 9/22, and Mr Cellophane makes a return to the set – the second to last performance. This Protector gets performed complete with the off-mic spoken word intro, and Folk Singer by Brendan Benson gets the first airing since the debut in Madrid on 5/25. An epic 7 minute Ball and Biscuit features Jack singing lyrics from Howlin Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning, the only known time he actually sings along to the riff, which had been debuted back at Stockholm on 5/13. Seven Nation Army gets a one-off adlib of “make the sweat drip…drip”. I Fought Piranhas here is one of the longest known versions, hitting the 6 minute mark and ending in a wail of whammy and feedback.

The biggest surprise of the night is the impromptu version of Sister Do You Know My Name?, which gets played during the intro to Death Letter. Having been hinted at the night before, and one of only two performances on the Elephant tour, the version here is unique, as the Kay guitar is in a different tuning than the one the song is normally played in. As a result, Jack ends up doing a bit of on-the-fly improvising with the vocal melody and the guitar parts. A completely inspired and unexpected surprise. Later in Death Letter he does the quick version of the Motherless Children lines, like he did at Melbourne 10/14. For a bit of comedy, listen for the sound of a local radio station being picked up by Jack’s amp after Seven Nation Army and again after The Hardest Button to Button. Continuing the theme from the night before, there is yet another reference to not knowing where “home” is during Boll Weevil, with Jack making a joke to the Indiana audience saying “We love being here in Houston Texas!”. This show also features a unique milestone, as it’s the first one where Jack closes the show by stepping on the Big Muff pedal and letting the guitar feedback ring out as the band exits the stage.

11/12/03 Columbus: PromoWest Pavilion – LISTEN

Similar to the previous night in Indianapolis, where the show ended with Jack thanking the city of Houston, he takes the joke a step further in Columbus, referring to different cities throughout the show (Boise, Des Moines, Akron). Given the band’s long history of playing in Ohio, it’s safe to say that they’re clearly glad to be back and are in good spirits, as this is an excellent performance, with energy to spare. Many of the songs get an extra dose of enthusiasm, particularly in the vocals. While they were surely looking forward to the end of the tour, and pushing back against the fatigue of touring, there’s certainly no sign of it here. Listen to the version of I Think I Smell a Rat, where Jack throws in the line “Video Games! Tattoos! Body Piercings! I think I smell a rat!” – a comment on some of the distractions of the day. He’d insert this line again at New York on 11/18. During Let’s Shake Hands he adds in the line “Well you can do what you wanna do Meg….we’ve been playing this song for 6 years! So say my name!” As if in amazement of how long they had been together and how long they had been on tour by this point.

Or listen to the must hear version of Hello Operator, where Jack sings one of the verses through the guitar pickup in his Airline. Or Little Bird, where he sings the “When I get you home” lines while toggling the pickup selector on the Kay to cut the sound in and out, mimic’ing the stutter effect with his voice. This show also features a rare outing of Now Mary, the second of only two performances on the Elephant tour (the other was at Sydney 10/10), which in turn segues into a welcome appearance of Sugar Never Tasted So Good. After the encores of Little Room, the Joss Stone version of Fell In Love With a Girl, Apple Blossom, and I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, where they’ve kept the energy they had at the beginning of the show all the way through to the end, they break the pattern of ending the show with Boll Weevil and instead close with Seven Nation Army, with the intro “Okay Akron, you’ve been very nice to us. My sister is very pleased, and I’m very happy too!”. Like the night before, the show closes with a wail feedback ringing out as the band leave the stage, the now official “ending” to each show that would follow on the tour from here.

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