The White Stripes

Roy Wilkins Auditorium

St. Paul, MN

Jul 3, 2003

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Show Notes

live sound by Matthew Kettle

mixed and mastered by Bill Skibbe, Third Man Mastering

Show Recap by long-time The White Stripes Fan, Mike. Read more at or below

In The Bigger Rooms...

Coming off of the June run, the trio of shows in Chicago and St Paul were a true test. Big shows in big rooms. July was all about exhibition, closing out the tour by pushing into the next level up.

As the last shows on this leg of the tour, these performances represent a kind of final exams. Two nights in the 4500 seat Aragon, and the tour-closer in the 5000 seat Roy Wilkins. While they had played the big room at Masonic back in April, the Aragon and Wilkins would be played without any home field advantage. While it may seem silly to be so focused on the capacity of a venue as a metric, the reality was that these were among the biggest venues that the band played on the tour.  Three bears style, clubs like the Ritz and Stubbs were now too small, arenas like Sun Dome too big, and a venue like Memorial Hall just right. In order to graduate, the band needed to demonstrate that they could go bigger. 

Like it or not, the band’s ability to dazzle at a large scale was the albatross that some critics desperately wanted to put around their necks. While the band would prove the doubters wrong, it didn’t change the fact that it was the narrative being forced on them.  Jack himself was aware of the numbers at play at these shows, as you can hear him on the recording from 7/2 note the “4500 people” in the audience.  And while the press around the St Paul show marveled at the band’s ability to jump from the tiny 400 capacity First Avenue the year before to the 5000 seat Roy Wilkins, the Chicago shows came with a narrative in the other direction. It seems that the issue that some reviewers had was not that the cavernous Aragon Ballroom was too big, but that it wasn’t small enough, wishing that the band would not “stray from the garage”.  With comparisons to the performances the band had given at the Empty Bottle and the Metro in years past, the Aragon shows had been set up to be a Kobayashi Maru, an unwinnable game.  And yet, what was missed in those concerns was that the Aragon shows were a natural step in the trajectory that the band had already long been on. In 2000 they played the Empty Bottle three times. In 2001, they did it again, including a two night stand at the tiny bar. In 2002, they went bigger, with two nights at the larger Metro.  If any city was right for the band to expand and push their limit, Chicago was it.  And true to the path they were on, both nights at the Aragon had completely sold out. Like the resistance to Dylan going electric, the critics had wanted the band to be something that they no longer were – unknowns playing to small crowds.  With all the focus on the venue, the critics were asking the wrong question. Instead of asking about the room, they should’ve been asking about the crowd – and whether they would be willing to make the jump.  As these shows would prove, the band had no problem bringing the fans with them.  You never have to leave the garage if you can turn a ballroom into one. The bigger room meant that there was a home for everybody at the shows now: old fans, new fans, and the critics – whether they liked the size of the room or not.

As for the performances, for many the only exposure to the Elephant-era live show is the legendary performance from July 2. What may be surprising is just how much of an outlier that show is. No other show on the tour is quite like it, or goes that far down that particular kind of rabbit hole.  One of the only shows on the tour not to feature "Black Math", the performance forgoes many of the familiar numbers in favor of songs like "Aluminum", "Black Jack Davey", "Candy Cane Children", the debut of "The Air Near My Fingers", and the impromptu jam that would become "Little Cream Soda." While there is still plenty of the familiar catalog present, the overall vibe of the show is one of experimentation and even a good bit of confrontation, starting and ending with ominous wails of feedback. You’ve heard the gig. Equal parts mania, exhaustion, and inspiration.  A masterstroke that this gig was released as the primary reference for the tour. While it may be one of the most rewarding and unique performances the band ever gave, it can also be one of the most challenging for a newcomer to live Stripes.

When placing the shows from 7/1 and 7/3 alongside it, the run becomes a wonderful Neapolitan trio. Unlike the run in Scandinavia, where the shows build one after the other, the shows here are each a very different flavor. Like discovering an unknown prequel and sequel to your favorite movie. While the second night in Chicago is a stream-of-conscious show played without regard for any “normal” type of setlist, night 1 is the full display of the band’s live show.  If 7/2 is the band completely off-script, 7/1 is the faithful readthrough, confidently nailing every line.  You get virtually every one of the “standard” songs that had been in rotation on the tour – with the lone exceptions of "I Want to Be the Boy" and "Ball and Biscuit." Otherwise it’s all in there, from the "Black Math" opener, the "Take Whiff On Me" quote in "I Think I Smell a Rat", "Jolene", "Motherless Children" in "Death Letter", the honesty of "Same Boy" and "We’re Going to Be Friends", the "You’re Pretty Good Looking"/"Hello Operator" duo, "Screwdriver" to close the main set, and "Boll Weevil" to close the encores. 

The show also rises to the setting, delivering moments of pure vaudeville. In addition to "Mr Cellophane" they also throw in a one-time addition of “We Both Reached For The Gun” from Chicago as a quick quote inside of "Screwdriver."  "Wasting My Time" also gets a unique variation, in a way that sets up the performance of "Black Jack Davey" the following night.  These moments balance against the bombast on display. Listen to "The Hardest Button To Button" here, or that yell that pivots "Death Letter" into "Motherless Children", as if bringing a stampede to a standstill.  This show is a proper opening night blitz. The encore at night 1 also features a rare performance of "Hand Springs", a deep cut shout out to those fans who no doubt had been with them at the Bottle. Even though the critics may have wished that these Chicago performances had instead taken place at a smaller venue, the first night in Chicago proves why that was never an option, delivering what is probably the most refined show of the entire tour up until this point, enthusiastic and complete.

If Chicago Night 1 was the Dr Jekyll to Night 2’s Mr Hyde, Night 3 in St Paul is the combination of the two, a set that goes back and forth between both personalities, delivering both the familiar and the one-of-a-kind moments. The Roy Wilkins Auditorium was even larger than the Aragon, and the band makes good on the narrative of being the small band that goes big, opening appropriately with “Little Room”.  The surprises are there from the get-go, as "Dead Leaves" is quickly abandoned due to an out of tune guitar and Jack performs the song entirely on the keyboards for the first time since the early performance at the Magic Bag on July 30 1999. Prior to that recording circulating, no one really knew that he could do the song like that, as if revealing a super-power he hadn’t yet flexed onstage before.  He goes to the organ again to open "The Union Forever", even adding in a quote from "Razzle Dazzle."  The quiet numbers here also hit exactly as they should.  Where the song "Do" had been a challenge to perform at 7/2, here it’s the right song for the room – getting almost as much applause as "Seven Nation Army" before it. The show also features the first known cover of the Beatles’ "Boys" as an impromptu outro to "Let’s Shake Hands" and a masterful medley of "Fell In Love With A Girl", "Cannon", and "Hypnotize", all built around a cover of "Dirt" by the Stooges - a not-so-subtle acknowledgement of how they were likely feeling by this point in the tour.  Where Chicago night 1 closed with "Boll Weevil" and night 2 closed with "Let’s Build A Home" and "Goin’ Back to Memphis", the encores at St Paul close with both – finishing as the longest set the band performed on this leg of the tour.  A fantastic exhibition in the big room to close out this leg of the tour. 

As a wonderful form of conclusion for the tour, the ticket stub for the St Paul show came with the words “NO MOSHING OR BODYSURFING” printed on it.  Like OSHA standards for a concert, as if to say be careful, there will be a lot of people at this one - with big rooms come big responsibilities.  Again a validation of exactly where the band were. Like the foreshadowing use of the strobe light in the club in Raleigh at the start of this leg of the tour, the St Paul ticket stub acts a bit like a diploma at the end of it. They had officially graduated from the clubs, and had the paperwork to prove it. Welcome to the bigger rooms.



Setlist at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, St. Paul, MN on Jul 3, 2003

Set One

Little Room 64


Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground 193


When I Hear My Name 119


I Think I Smell a Rat 139


Jolene 235


The Hardest Button to Button 225


In The Cold, Cold Night 215


Hotel Yorba 115


Black Math 162


Jimmy The Exploder 150


Wasting My Time 145


I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart 192


Death Letter 317


Motherless Children Have A Hard Time 103


Seven Nation Army 230


Do 205


The Union Forever 232


Let’s Shake Hands 106


I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself 185


We're Going To Be Friends 147


Apple Blossom 141


I Fought Piranhas 233


One More Cup Of Coffee 183


Fell In Love With a Girl 61


Cannon 70


Dirt 71


Hypnotize 108


Cannon (reprise) 28


Dirt (reprise) 53


Ball And Biscuit 266


Screwdriver 603


Let's Build A Home 103


Goin’ Back to Memphis 179


Boll Weevil 228


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