In memoriam: The White Stripes

  • Updated: February 2, 2011 - 7:17 PM

A personal tribute to the band, which announced its breakup Wednesday.


The White Stripes rocked the first of two sold out concerts at the Orpheum in 2005. Those shows will go down as the last time the duo performed in Minneapolis.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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In an era when arena shows and flashy rock 'n' roll in general are back in vogue, the Stripes made the refreshing decision to downsize venues and keep their music the one and only spectacle. ... Frontman Jack White seldom spoke to the crowd, but his enthusiasm flashed throughout the show with kid-like smiles. All the while, his ex-wife Meg White -- whom he still calls his sister -- egged him on by mouthing the lyrics behind her drum kit. There was hardly a second without music.

So I wrote/gushed in the Star Tribune Aug. 27, 2005, which will now go down as the last time the White Stripes performed in Minneapolis. On Wednesday, Jack and Meg White officially called an end to their beloved duo. There were no artistic differences, they say, nor health issues that did them in (Meg's struggles with acute anxiety sidelined them in 2007). Instead, they said they simply wanted to "preserve what is beautiful and special about the band."

"Both Meg and Jack hope this decision isn't met with sorrow by their fans but that it is seen as a positive move done out of respect for the art and music that the band has created," their statement read.

Pretty classy stuff. The announcement hardly comes as a shock, though, after four years of nonactivity. Jack did tell me in a 2006 interview, "I've got a lot of songs for the White Stripes record," and up until last year he kept alluding to making a new album.

Playing in a band with your ex-wife (and only your ex-wife!) must be a tricky thing, especially once you've both remarried. The fact that Meg's ceremony in 2009 took place outside Jack's historic mansion in Nashville was one of many ways they seemed intent on putting a smiley face on being a divorced couple.

The Stripes were just babes when they started out, playing here at the 400 Bar. Their First Avenue show in 2002 -- when they covered Bob Dylan's "Love Sick" but not their then-big hit "Fell in Love With a Girl" -- will go down as one of my all-time favorites at the club. A year later, I wrote something about them being rock's most exciting and important band of the '00s. Whether or not that held true (I'd say it did), the fact that they folded with the decade seems fitting.

Jack has been to town a few times since the Stripes went on hiatus, first with the Raconteurs and then with the Dead Weather. In both cases, his collaborators were far more proficient and versatile players than Meg, who sometimes sounded like she was thinking about a cupcake recipe instead of keeping time. Somehow, though, neither band came close.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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