The White Stripes

Memorial Hall

Kansas City, KS

Jun 28, 2003

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Show Notes

live sound by Matthew Kettle

mixed and mastered by Bill Skibbe, Third Man Mastering

Read the full show recap at

June 2003 – Raleigh to Kansas City by Ben Blackwell

Starting in the last week of spring and finishing in the first week of summer, these two shows capture the beginning and end of a 13 day trek, from North Carolina to Kansas.  Two sets of 6 performances in a row, with a day off in the middle on June 22, and 2 shows played on the same day at Stubbs in Austin on June 25.  13 shows in 13 days.

Kicking off in Raleigh on June 16, with a return to a club they had visited 4 years earlier as a then-unknown opening act for Pavement, and concluding in Kansas City on June 28 at the Memorial Hall - the closest they would get to actually “going to Wichita” on the Elephant tour - the performances here are a true before & after. Two snapshots in time: one looking back, reflecting on their early years on the road. The other looking the bigger venues and the many dates still to come on the tour.

In as much as April was about exposure and May was about exploration, you could say that June was all about endurance.

The venues on this leg ranged from clubs, to theaters, auditoriums, and even a sports arena.  While the band had no problem delivering excellent performances at large events such as Glastonbury, Roskilde, or Coachella (in fact, they had started June with a festival date in Italy to close out the European leg, and then performed at back-to-back festival appearances in California before making their way to Raleigh), finding the appropriate place to play in each city would prove to be a challenge.  Not every city had a good mid-size venue. In Tampa, for instance, they had no other option but to play in the 10,000 seat Sun Dome, which had to be curtained off in order to reduce the size of the arena, with the band performing to about the same size crowd as they would at the club shows.

While Raleigh had obvious sentimental significance for the band, just like the show in Houston where they gave a shout out to Blind Willie Johnson, or Oklahoma City “land of Woody Guthrie" -  in Kansas City it would be the audience that provided the acknowledgment, roaring in approval during the “Wichita” line in "Seven Nation Army", taking Jack by surprise.  Like the triumphant return to Raleigh, the Wichita reaction at Kansas City is also a true “it could only have happened here” moment on the tour.

The recordings of these two performances perfectly capture not just the sound of the band, but also the venues that they were playing in.  The Ritz being the smaller venue, with the crowd upfront and present, and Memorial Hall, with the band playing in a bigger room, and the crowd further in the background. Where you can hear the reverb on Jack’s amp so clearly on the recording at Raleigh, at Kansas City it’s the sound of the room that reverberates.

The Raleigh performance is a club show through and through, a relaxed and warm nod to the band’s history.  The tour-closing shows in North Carolina from 2000 and 2001 in Asheville are among the best from those years.  This time around, North Carolina got the tour opener, with the band coming back to conquer on familiar ground in Raleigh.  While the name of the venue had recently changed from the Ritz to the Disco Rodeo, it was still very much the same place, with Jack playfully reminding the audience about how the last time they played there in 1999 “nobody gave a damn”, before joking “Now who’s laughing?”  As if further embodying that feeling of a return to an earlier time, Jack’s Fender Twin has the reverb set high at this show - like he did in the early years (listen to the sound of the springs audibly slapping back during the pulsing intro to "The Hardest Button to Button"), giving an almost throwback feel to the sound of this performance. Like a 2003 version of a 1999 club show, back when it was just one amp on stage doing all the heavy lifting.  The setlist here is also about as unpredictable as many of those early shows were - stretching out in any direction they felt like going, from the cheerful tribute to North Carolina in "Lord, Send Me An Angel" early in the set, to a flawless "I Fought Piranhas" packing as much tightly-wound energy as can fit into 3 minutes, or the disarming intimacy of Bob Dylan’s "Girl From The North Country", the first known performance since the early years – featured as a brief quote at the end of "Five String Serenade."  Even the "Take a Whiff on Me" interlude gets inserted into "The Big Three Killed My Baby", a colliding of a debut-era song with an Elephant-era adlib.  And yet, even with all of this nostalgia - this show is one of the first to feature a strobe light effect for "Seven Nation Army".  A small acknowledgement of where the band were by this point, with the bigger stage productions and larger venues to come.  While they would go on to play at a few more clubs on the tour, none would hold as much significance as this one.

13 days later, and the relaxed and open-ended feeling so present at Raleigh has been replaced with an almost brutal directness at Kansas City.  They’ve just been through a long run of shows, and oh boy can you hear it. Like a boxer having worked their way through the circuit, with only a few matches left before the championship.  Still hungry, aware of what it takes to last the necessary rounds, and more than capable of delivering the knockout. While they could focus on more personal storytelling at a comfortable pace in the smaller club setting in Raleigh, in Kansas City the bigger room required bigger gestures, with a focus on keeping the energy going from end-to-end.  Look no further than the 7+ minute rendition of "I Think I Smell a Rat", featuring a medley that leads off with a cover of Lead Belly’s "Pick a Bale of Cotton", the vocals a jarring display delivered at the top of the lungs - as if demanding that the audience can hear him all the way in the back. If Raleigh had a lightness to it, Kansas City brings the heavy. The near-shredded vocals during the breakdown in "Black Math", or the doomy intro to "Cannon", played almost as if mimicking Black Sabbath’s "Electric Funeral." There’s an edge to many of the songs here, and plenty of surprises, including the rare performance of "Candy Cane Children" - the only live rendition captured by the Stripes to feature that excellent dark outro riff, or the final performance of "Don’t Blame Me" which feels less like a ballad from a hopeless romantic and more like a cautionary tale. Or how about that extended ending added to "Hello Operator", turning one of their most buoyant songs into glorious sludge.  And of course that one-of-a-kind performance of "Seven Nation Army", where the Kansas crowd go ballistic the moment the Wichita line finally arrives.  With so much effortless riffing and raw power on display, it’s no surprise that there is very little time spent on the keyboards here. This ain't that kind of show.  By the time they get to "Boll Weevil", having successfully delivered a near non-stop performance, it’s a straightforward “Alright folks, I suppose it’s that time of the night…”. A reminder that each show on the tour, just like a carnival, eventually has to pack up and head to the next town. A fitting close to the run.

After this 13 day journey, the band would have a day off and head to St. Louis, where that show would be marked by near constant equipment failures. After such a long haul with no issues, St. Louis ends up being a bit like returning from a cross-country drive, and then the car breaks down the very next time you take it down the street. And even with all of those challenges, just like running through so many back to back dates in so many different settings, they still managed to make that St. Louis show a memorable performance.  Endurance.  

As it would turn out, the trip from North Carolina to Kansas would include the final shows that the White Stripes would ever perform in those states - as well as Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma.  Louisiana would get a final visit at the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans in November, and the band would return to Georgia one last time for the Midtown Music festival in Atlanta, early on in the Get Behind Me Satan tour.  They would also return to Kansas City on that tour, but it would be on the Missouri side of town – at the much larger Starlight Theatre, of course.



Setlist at Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS on Jun 28, 2003

Set One

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground 171


Black Math 158


I Think I Smell a Rat 72


Pick A Bale Of Cotton 43


Let’s Shake Hands 106


I Think I Smell A Rat (Reprise) 14


Mr. Cellophane 144


I Think I Smell A Rat (reprise 2.0) 80


Hotel Yorba 120


In The Cold, Cold Night 217


Good To Me 127


Candy Cane Children 146


Cannon 96


John The Revelator 68


Don't Blame Me 128


You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl) 95


Hello Operator 179


Death Letter 370


Seven Nation Army 251


We're Going To Be Friends 144


The Same Boy You’ve Always Known 214


The Hardest Button to Button 217


Lord, Send Me An Angel 113


Apple Blossom 124


Jimmy The Exploder 144


Ball And Biscuit 272


Smokestack Lightning 117


Screwdriver 444


Sugar Never Tasted So Good 172


When I Hear My Name 62


Baby Blue 145


I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself 181


Boll Weevil 254


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