The White Stripes reunite, play saddest song in the world.
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
For Conan O’Brien’s final Late Night show, he probably could have gotten any musical guest he wanted, including Bruce Springsteen. After all, E Street drummer Max Weinberg is right there.
But instead, O’Brien chose the White Stripes, the Detroit duo who last performed live in 2007 (the Stripes retired from the road citing Meg White’s “accute anxiety.”) O’Brien and the band have maintained a close working relationship over the years – the comedian even appears in the Stripe’s video for “The Denial Twist.”
On Friday, the White Stripes reunited to toast O’Brien, performing their 2001 song “We’re Going To Be Friends,” with Meg White accompanying Jack White on guitar and vocals.
Usually a happy little song, the Stripes played up the pathos, turning in the saddest reading of “We’re Going To Be Friends” you’ll likely ever hear, with Jack nearing tears at one point.
Instant Internet reaction was mixed — some found the performance painful, while others found it to be genius. O’Brien appeared to enjoy it, telling the band their performance meant the world to him. Earlier, he told Rolling Stone about his connection to the red and white musicians:
“There has always been a childlike silliness to our show, and I’d like to think there’s been a silly sweetness to our show. There’s a sweetness to the White Stripes – there’s the hard rock but there’s this sweetness that I think resonates a little bit with our show and it’s always been a good fit.”
O’Brien, a talented musician himself, likes to play “We’re Going to Be Friends” on guitar to disolve tension during rehearsals.
“It’s in G. G and D are my favorite chords.”
Check out the band’s performance, via Stereogum:
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The White Stripes have always stood for emotional authenticity and spontaneity, and the beauty of simplicity. That’s what creates the band’s unique magic, and it’s what makes their live shows both so intensely exciting and so utterly unpredictable. This farewell performance was, in its own quiet little way, a perfect demonstration of that.
Its artfully muted intensity was as different as could be from the noise and dynamism of some of their past appearances on Conan’s show; such as that week full of shows they did in 2003, culminating in their legendary performance of Let’s Build A Home, that blew us all away. But like a word that is whispered instead of shouted, this deceptively simple song causes us to pull closer, to listen more intently, to pay more attention to the mystery of the moment.
This performance of We Are Going To Be Friends was clearly done for Conan, and not for the world at large. The band did not announce it to their fans, either in their newsletter or on their website. It was the fans themselves — and music critics, and the mass media — who seized onto this sweet little moment and tried to turn it into “The White Stripes Comeback Reunion!!!” (When in fact, the band had never split up at all. They were just taking an extended break for other things.)
I’m pretty sure it would have been easy for Jack White to blow everyone away thermonuclear rock god charisma and sheer decibels, and make all his fans delirious, if he wanted to. (Since, after all, he does that on a regular basis.) But no, he was true to his friendship with Conan, to this moment and what it meant; and so he chose to do something that was utterly fitting to that, a sweet and sad little farewell. It was perfect.
Of course, some fans of the band were not all that interested in what was appropriate to the context; they wanted this to be the stunning and triumphant return of The White Stripes, and to be blown away. So there is bound to be some disappointment, especially among some younger fans, because this was not that. It was clearly never intended to be that.
But once again Jack White has proven that he’s just gonna do what he feels in his gut is right to do, regardless of what media hype and frenzied fans all over the world are expecting of him. This song seemed to be motivated purely by his heartfelt friendship, with Conan, and he never lost that focus. He just did what seemed right to do, and let the chips fall where they may. And for that kind of integrity and courage I find that I once again admire the man immensely.
And Meg has always been his perfect musical counterpart, willing to do what’s needed for the magic of the moment — even if it means playing a guitar duet instead of her drums. The people who would look at that only in terms of technical expertise are missing the whole point of the band, which is all about beauty and not wankery. So the song came together in the spirit of sweet simplicity that is so iconic of The White Stripes. And what a gift it was to see Jack and Meg together again, side by side — like the song says.
This rare and quirky little gem of a performance has given us all yet another fascinating glimpse into The White Stripes world — a surreal and enchanted place where almost anything can happen, as long as you do it straight from the heart.
Thank you, Jack and Meg.
I was going to say something here, but you nailed it perfectly, Dee. Amen.
well said, dee, well said
great post Dee!
I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THAT PERFORMANCE!!
it’s the side I enjoy the most..
Ones like me usually keep quiet and are not considered the mass fan base, but the severely affected by the White Stripes pack.
Dee- Wow, couldn’t have said it better myself, you totally “got it”! Thanks for posting what many of us were thinking, but couldn’t find the right words for. 🙂
Dee , that post was very good except the end where u said “a surreal and enchanted place where almost anything can happen, as long as you do it straight from the heart”
that was just cheese
Wow Dee. Not only could it have not been said better, I wish someone would publish what you said. You perfectly expressed what needed to be said.