Thinkin' Bout My Doorbell...White Stripes/Shins - 9/24/05
This here blogger turned 26 yesterday, and he figured that spending said occasion at the Mets' Single-A ballpark in Coney Island watching two giants of modern-indie was as good a way as any to spend it.
Slightly off-topic, the original branch of Totonno's Pizza on Neptune Avenue (7-minute walk from Keyspan Park), most certainly lives up to the hype, and may actually be my new favorite NYC slice (with Grimaldi's finishing a close second). You may think its a good idea to hit the joint up before catching this upcoming weekend's Across the Narrows gigs, and you'd be right...just be prepared to spend at least an hour in line, quite possibly longer. Excellent pies though, and they have Brooklyn Pennant Ale.
Considering it's a minor-league baseball stadium, Keyspan Park is actually a decent place to see a show. Sound was good, port-o-johns were plentiful, and if you happen to be on the field, the stage is high enough that the amount of time spent on your tiptoes will be minimal.
I missed Brendan Benson, but suffice it to say, The Shins were The Shins, playing a tight 40-minute set that sounded exactly like the album cuts, save an extra three-minute '"jam" tacked onto the end of "One By One All Day." That the songs can sound exactly like their studio counterparts and still be a blast to hear in concert is a testament to how great a songwriter James Mercer is. There was merely one new song played; a good thing considering that this band has taken the art of milking minimal studio output to unprecedented new heights (and have they played "Fighting in a Sack" live, ever?). The keyboard player was his usual court jester self; quoting John Fogerty's "Centerfield" and bragging about his skills in "shooting the freak" on the boardwalk earlier in the day. And for all of those Zach Braff fans who may have been seeing the band for the first time, while the band opened with "Caring Is Creepy," "New Slang" went unplayed (scandalous!). The Shins are a great band. Just put out that third album already. Seriously. It doesn't need to be any longer than your other two albums. Just do it. The Fiery Furnaces' "EP" is even longer than both Shins albums.
The last time I saw The White Stripes in concert was at a 2002 free show in Union Square sponsored by Chrysler (leading them to open with "The Big Three Killed My Baby," natch). Before that it was at one of their sold-out Bowery gigs. Those shows were fun. The Coney Island show was more than fun...it was borderline awe-inspiring. Did the birthday charity of my friends leave me more than a little drunk during the set? Yes. This band is fun to see sloshed. Didn't matter. Would have enjoyed it just as much sober. Their stage presence was huge (augmented by red and white lights, white bushes, and red tapestries), and the performance never let up; even after the 'how on earth do you top this' opening triptych of "Black Math," "Blue Orchid" and "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" (wowsers). Jack and Meg have five records under their belt now, so they've got more than enough songs with which to rock a stadium crowd. Furthermore, they seldom take longer than a 10 second break (at most) between tunes, so the energy level never sags. The majority of the set was culled from the Elephant album, there were roughly six songs from the recent (and excellent) Get Behind Me Satan, and you had the hits from their other three discs (unsurprisingly, no "Fell In Love With a Girl"). They also played Meg's 30-second "Passive Manipulation twice, and had two bright red timpani drums onstage that were literally only used for the combined minute that Meg sang the song (big glockenspiel too....only used for "The Nurse"). For those curious, "Seven Nation Army" was the second to last song in the 25-minute "encore."
A friend commented that the White Stripes live show features "the rawness that you get with the first two Black Sabbath" albums, and he's correct. As fun as their studio albums can be, I sincerely hope the next White Stripes release is a live disc because that's where they're at their finest. While I was at first unquestionably skeptical of the ability of two individuals to wow a huge crowd at a baseball field, such fears were unfounded. Jack White knows what he's doing, and I've never had more respect for his band than I do now.
(BTW: Jim Jarmusch stood behind my party and I for the whole show; clad in a black ballcap simply reading "Johnny Cash." Rock.)