Baseball parks are the provinces of summer, but this time of year tests the connection, as the high cool air of autumn reminds crowds that all seasons come to an end.
Baseball parks are the provinces of summer, but this time of year tests the connection, as the high cool air of autumn reminds crowds that all seasons come to an end. So it was Sept. 25 at Coney Island in Brooklyn, as winds coming off the ocean chilled the Keyspan Park audience there to witness the end of a two-night stand by the White Stripes.
For a minimalist two-person act, the Stripes proved adept at entertaining the voluminous crowd, even if their stage show hasn't changed much in the four years since their breakthrough album "White Blood Cells," when they were playing tiny clubs instead of wide-open sports fields. The setup is maddeningly simple and by now well known -- Jack White on guitar (now taking breaks to man the piano or marimba) and "Sister Meg" tethering the songs with her drum kit.
The Stripes are essentially a blues-rock duo, but their novelty and retro-chic -- probably as much as Jack's technical prowess on the guitar -- has broadened their appeal to the point where their fan base includes young teenagers and parents with even smaller children. A rousing version of Son House's "Death Letter Blues" turned into a perfect showcase for Jack's talents with the slide, and also provided a delicious juxtaposition: a brace of fresh-faced teenage girls bouncing happily along in the stands to this slightly demonic, hard-rock version of a dark old blues song.
But the White Stripes feed off that sort of dichotomy. Early in the set, they put more care into reproducing Bob Dylan's haunting "Love Sick" than their own single and album opener "Blue Orchid," during which Jack followed his own rhythm, feverishly turning over the song's central riff as Meg struggled to keep up with her bandmate's wandering fingers.
Some of the most endearing moments of the show came when Jack put down his axe and sat at the piano. He and Meg worked up a rousing jive on the deceptively simple current single "My Doorbell," and the piano work on the verses lent a nice elastic dynamic to "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground." During a spastic version of "The Nurse," from the new album "Get Behind Me Satan," Jack moved to the marimba, offering a nice counterpoint to his manic fretwork.
Stage banter was minimal, which is probably for the best, as Jack's "more-old-fashioned-than-thou" persona comes across better when he's rocking the guitar than when he's addressing the crowd as "children" or spouting non sequiturs like "Meg had breakfast with Dennis Hopper today. And that's not true."
But rock he did, especially during an encore set that included singles "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button" as well as a funky turn on "The Denial Twist."
M. Ward and the Shins opened, the latter playing a longish set of lilting pop that seemed appreciated by most of the crowd. But it was clearly the White Stripes' night, and the pair showed that novelty or not, they are top-notch entertainers, and can impress a crowd of just about any size.