It’s been a busy couple of months for the White Stripes. They toured all over the world, playing venues no rock band had ever before entered. Drummer Meg White signed on to play on a soundtrack. Vocalist Jack (as in Jack-of-all-instruments) wrote a jingle for Coke, got married and oh yeah — is expecting a child. And tonight, they were the first musical act to play live on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
The minimalist modern rock duo had a quick chat with host Jon Stewart before heading over to the makeshift stage to play “The Denial Twist” and “My Doorbell,” both singles from their (no-it-grows-on-you-oh-my-god-really-buy-it-now) latest album Get Behind Me Satan. They seemed a bit stiff and giggly, but I’m sure it’s strange to know you’re going to have to shift from interview-mode to performance-mode so quickly. I don’t know what Jack and Meg do to prepare to perform before crowds (I’d bet they don’t sit down and chat up the press, even the fake press), but me, I’d be eight shades of green and probably vomiting up three days’ worth of meals, which you really can’t do politely on camera. And I’d really hate to embarrass myself in front of Jon Stewart like that.
Speculation favored the band choosing “The Denial Twist” for tonight’s show; after all, it’s the latest single, with a fresh video directed by Michel Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which you can check out here. Gondry also directed several other videos for the band.
Besides, considering the White Stripes recently released ten (ten!) different versions of the song, even letting everyone guess (accurately) that they were going to play it left plenty of wiggle room — and indeed, tonight’s version was not the album cut. That playful versatility is one of the things I really like about the band. You never know what version (or style) of a song you’re going to hear when they perform live, but the alterations are always good and they really show off just how much a duo can pull off if they’re talented. The album cut of “The Denial Twist” relies on the piano, but on The Daily Show the song was all about Jack and his guitar. “Doorbell” they played pretty straight, however, after Jack shook off whatever it is that drags down the beginning of his performances.
Yeah, I said it. I said something not-positive about the band. But it’s true; at the beginning of every live performance I’ve seen/heard, Jack’s a little rough. It takes him a few breaths to settle into a song. And with this format (play a song, wait, Jon chatters, play another), there were two rough patches, one at the beginning of each song. Though I must say, he settled into “Doorbell” more easily than he did the first song. Meg, of course, was golden. She doesn’t get enough credit.
Overall? The performance was good but not great, and while I love seeing my favorite band on my favorite show, the show seemed a little truncated (which is not good) and Jacky-Live may be an acquired taste and I worry that some potential fans might have actually been turned off by what they saw. Don’t get me wrong. I, of course, think that makes them snap-judging fools, but hey. I’m a fan. I would still hope any discerning music lover could see past a few rough edges on Jack’s vocals into the depth beneath.
It was nice to see these two elements paired, but frankly, I hope they shy away from music in the future. I require more Jon Stewart, and can we please get some really funny people to replace Stephen Colbert? You guys should really pry Mo Rocca away from The Tonight Show. He’s better than that, and The Daily Show could use him.