Yesterday The White Stripes released a 2005 From the Basement performance they recorded in London for Sky Arts. It was shortly after their penultimate album, Get Behind Me Satan, was released. And it blew me away.
After Jack counts Meg in and she starts stomping that kick drum on “Blue Orchid,” I got chills. Literal chills that wouldn’t go away for a while. A little moisture even welled up in my eyes. Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but it’s the effect it had on me. I guess it’s just the power of live music. At that tiny moment of her first kick of the drum, it seemed like, in a very real way, the outside world vanished and a new one replaced it: Jack and Meg’s world. The room they were playing in seemed changed. Again, this sounds melodramatic, but it’s the effect it had on me. Meg seemed changed. She had walked out like a normal, red-clad, mild-mannered person, as Jack jovially sang “Lady in Red” to her. But that kick of the drum changed her instantly. Her posture suddenly changed, erected, as if possessed. She had a new intensity. She had become entranced, sultry, consumed by the sounds they were making.
Jack, I think, is just always that way. He’s always possessed, by music or whatever that spirit is in him. I didn’t see him change, but that’s only because he didn’t have to. He always has that sprightly twinkle in his eyes. But there was a real magic to Meg’s transformation.
It’s such a unique chemistry those two had, and it was reinforced during “Little Ghost.” Gone was the overdriven electric guitar from Jack’s hands. In its place was a swiftly strummed mandolin. Jack took his place right next to Meg’s kit and they stared into each other’s eyes throughout the song, singing together and sharing their fire and laughter. The whole world had become them, the two of them, as some life force beamed between their eyes and their instruments.
At the end, you could feel that little world fizzle away (until the next time they’d play) with the drone of a chord and Meg’s casual swipe of her hair, and we were returned to a more relaxed world of smiles and kudos. But it was so fun to be in Jack and Meg’s world again for 20 minutes.