Now Streaming: Under Great White Northern Lights


Do you love barn-burning music that threatens to split your skull with sheer virtuosity and energy teetering on the precipice of collapse and insanity? Of course you do. Luckily, the White Stripes are willing to oblige your cravings with the live performances on Under Great White Northern Lights, the concert film that tracked the White family as they traversed across the Canadian landscape on their peppermint-hued 2007 tour. This Wednesday, twelve major U.S. cities will hold pre-screenings of the documentary, which comes out officially on March 16th. Until then, head over to NPR to stream the new album in its entirety. After the jump find some of our initial reactions, along with screening info for the film.

From the haunting, bagpipe introduction of “Let’s Shake Hands,” Jack White showcases a throat-shredding vocal line and stuttering guitar solo that will make you antsy for the next time you can go apeshit at a White Stripes live show. The crowd noise interjections are exhilarating, from the soccer-hooligan riff singalong of “Seven Nation Army” to the anthemic whoops dancing over organ accents on “I’m Slowly Turning Into You.” Unique colors abound, from jangly accordion to Civil-War era bagpipes and analog electronic outros.

In some places Jack and Meg subvert the quick-stomp of the recorded songs into slow crescendos, playing up the build on tracks like “Fell In Love With A Girl” without really a requisite explosion of catharsis. On “Ball and Biscuit,” Jack discards the original vocals and instead free-associates some new swaggering lyrics. All the while, he wails through the ear-split guitars to sound like a deranged mental patient, fighting for his life to stay out of the straitjacket confinement and mattress-softened walls of painless austerity.

Jack can turn heart wrenching and delicate on a dime, such as in the soft sways of “We Are Going To Be Friends.” Still, it’s the rollicking power of songs like “Black Math” that cement the atmosphere; you get the feeling the guitar strings are caked with sweat and residual runniness from the cold outside. It’s like the band’s hands are slowly warming up and becoming increasingly dexterous. It’s the four on the floor bass drum stomps and guitar that rips open your sternum, stabbing and spitting on your heart while the organ somehow keeps pumping resolutely. Play this shit loud or not at all.

Watch a trailer for Under Great White Northern Lights:

The following is a listing of AMC theaters holding screenings for Under Great White Northern Lights this coming Wednesday, March 11th.

Washington D.C. – Hoffman 22 Detroit – Forum 30 Philadelphia- Neshaminy 24 Chicago – River East 21 Minneapolis – Rosedale 14 Los Angeles – Block 30 San Diego – Mission Valley 20 Seattle – Pacific Place 11 Boston – Boston Common 19 New Jersey – Palisades 21 New York City – Empire 25 Atlanta – Barrett 24