Saw The White Stripes last night at the Agganis Arena at Boston University. This is the third time I’ve seen them (not counting the Raconteurs concert last year) but probably my least favorite of their concert. The Stripes are one of my favorite bands and the first time I saw them (at a similar ice rink in Lowell on the Elephant tour) I was floored by the energy and quality of the concert. This time there seemed to be less energy, and certainly there was less volume. Maybe the tour is wearing on the Stripes, or maybe it was the venue. Had a good time but probably the last time I’ll see them live unless the concert meets one of my “go-to-concert criteria”.

My Go-to-Concert Criteria

Only go to a concert if it meets these specs:

– Way up front at a big venue (was in the front standing room only area at Tweeter for Nickelback et al) – otherwise the acoustics are so bad it’s not worth going.

– Haven’t seen the band before and want to see them at least once – last year that was Roger Waters, Bob Dylan, and Aerosmith, this year The Cure. Still kicking myself for not seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan when I lived in Austin, and Led Zeppelin when they were Led Zeppelin. Although good concert DVDs certainly make up for a lot.

– It’s at a small venue – I’ll take a smaller band at a small venue over a big band at a big venue – last year the Raconteurs at Lupos in Providence, this year Cowboy Junkies at the Iron Horse in Northampton.

Here is the partial set list from the concert. Didn’t take notes ’cause I was there to listen, not report. Sorry…

Icky Thump
Little Cream Soda
Rag and Bone
Hotel Yorba
In the Cold Cold Night
Ball & Biscuit
I Think I Smell a Rat
300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues
Hello Apple Blossom
Seven Nation Army
When I Hear my Name (?)

So they played a lot of my favorites, although they didn’t include some like Black Math, Hardest Button to Button, Blue Orchid. I was seated toward the back, toward the side, so maybe the show was better from the floor or closer. Didn’t seem to be though based on watching the fans around the arena. Not much boppin’. Certainly lots of applause after (and sometimes during) songs, so people clearly liked the band. The acoustics were fairly good (for a hockey rink – it’s a smallish one so I’m sure that helped). I think a few more clean decibels would have made all the difference. I don’t envy sound engineers who have to try to balance out the sound in a large place like that, but paying good money means I want good sound.

Speaking of bad sound, the worst case of poor concert audio I’ve heard in the past few years was at the tent that gets set up during summers on the Boston waterfront. This year it’s called the Bank of America Pavilion. The concert was Jethro Tull. The sound was so lacking in volume that you could carry on a conversation at normal speaking levels during the show. Terrible. That’s not always the case in the pavilion as that same year John Hiatt put on a great show there.

Hmm, while I’m talking about concerts I’ll list a few of my favorites:

– Talking Heads at a big bar in the Springfield MA area in ’81 or maybe ’82. My girlfriend and I were standing about 20′ from the stage. Amazing.
– Talking Heads on the Stop Making Sense tour (the tour they made the DVD from). At the Worcester Centrum or some such.
– Tom Petty at the Tweeter Center (Great Woods) around ‘2004.
– Pretenders / B-52s at Great Woods around ‘2001.
– Buddy Guy at Lupos (or some big bar in Providence) around ‘2005.
– Susan Tedeschi at the Avalon in Boston around ‘2003.
– B.B. King at Foxwoods around ‘2003.
– The White Stripes Elephant tour (see above)

Uh, and my first concert was Styx at the New Haven Coliseum, which I’m not too proud of but hey, I was in high school and enjoyed it at the time. Or maybe it was Charlie Daniels at the Cape Cod Coliseum. That was great too. Thanks to Uncle Billy for taking me.

Still on my list of “bands to see while I can” are The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Page and Plant. So if you have a spare ticket… 🙂


(Talking Heads live in Rome 1980)

Does anyone know who the guest guitarist is?

Thanks to my colleague Tom R who points out that the guitarist is none other than Adrian Belew.