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- Posted on Mar 15th 2010 1:00PM by Lonny Knapp
Before the tour was over, the band had rocked out in a bowling alley in Saskatoon, serenaded commuters on a city bus in Winnipeg, blew the roof off a community centre in Edmonton, led a sing-along at a YCMA daycare in Toronto, performed in the back of a fishing boat in Charlottetown and played a lightning-fast single-note gig in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Lucky for us, they caught it all on film.
"We felt Canada was untapped. It seemed like this gigantic frontier both musically and artistically that people just don't explore enough," White tells Spinner.
Director Emmet Malloy's 'The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights' documents the duo's extensive tour of every Canadian province and territory, and is included in the band's soon-to-be released, career-spanning box set.
White, who grew up just a few miles from the bridge that links Detroit to Windsor, said he was always fascinated by the distinct culture of his neighbors to the north. But his success with the White Stripes and Raconteurs kept him too busy making records and touring to claim any familiarity with the Great White North.
While the White Stripes previous Canadian tours included only major markets, its 2007 tour included dates in such far-flung locales as Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Glace Bay and the arctic tundra town of Iqaluit.
"It's very hard to play smaller towns, because it's just not cost-effective and you try to make the biggest impact with the time you have. But we were in a position with the White Stripes, after being around for a decade, as to be so bold as to say that we were going to go play Iqaluit and Whitehorse."
Those towns are not on the itinerary of most Canadian bands, let alone a prestigious outfit like the White Stripes. Jack, who admits he's not a fan of big cities like London, Tokyo and Paris, said that he was struck by the "unabashed beauty" of these northern outposts.
"They seem like they are out of the 1800s. Canada has something special in the way that there are still remote places that haven't been commercialized and overblown like the rest of America is. I feel lucky to have experienced that," he said.
Emmett Malloy's footage of performances in concert halls and arenas proves the Detroit blues/art-rock band can deliver an stadium-sized rock show. On stage, Jack harnesses a fearsome energy; he patrols the stage, switching instruments whenever the notion strikes, howling into the microphone, and eliciting moans and screams from his beat-up old guitars. True to form, Meg lays down the steady backbeat.
But the footage of the free daytime shows is most revealing. When Jack and Meg drop into a community centre in Iqaluit to entertain a group of Inuit elders with an acoustic rendition of a Blind Willie McTell tune, or as they power through a punk-rock performance in a pool hall in Halifax, you know the White Stripes are dead-set on making a connection.
White, who recently opened a small concert space and recording studio in his Third Man Records Headquarters in Nashville, admitted that he's nostalgic for the intimacy of smaller venues.
"On an arena tour you are in concrete room after concrete room, and it becomes a blur. With those shows, we really experienced the towns we were in," he said. "One of the goals of performing and being an entertainer is to share with other people. In a smaller environment you can see that connection. Once you start playing 10,000 seat arenas, you just see a crowd of faceless people that you won't get to talk to afterward."