They just finished the main set with a blistering version of "Blue Veins" from the 2006 debut album, and doggone if it didn't live up to all the hype I've heard about it. I've been trying to think for two years what this song reminds me of and wasn't able to put my finger on it until right now: This is Jack White's version of Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You." And the album version doesn't do it justice. Wow.
I didn't catch the set from the very beginning, but you and I can both listen to the archive starting tomorrow when it's posted to NPR's music page. When I logged on about 40 minutes ago, they were just ripping into "Top Yourself" off the new album, leading right into "Old Enough," both two of my favorites from the new album. Hearing these and others from "Consolers of the Lonely" confirms for me the glowing review I wrote of that CD last week; these songs appeal much more to me than those on the first album. The songs from "Broken Boy Soldier" they've played tonight also sound excellent—stronger and harder than the recorded version—but they've also wisely selected only the four strongest tracks from that CD: "Steady As She Goes," "Store Bought Bones," the aforementioned "Blue Veins," and the title track.
Speaking to my brother about the new record, though, he clued me in to how the other side might feel. He still finds the first album superior because the new one sounds "just like The White Stripes." To that I say, "Uh, yeah. What's the problem?"
OK, actually I say: No, it sounds like the elemental core of the Stripes expanded and taken in new directions not possible in the duo's highly structured format (despite the fantastic stretches they managed on last year's "Icky Thump"). But I do take that point under advisement. And it's not like I hated "Soldier." On the contrary, I liked it very much; I just prefer blues/country-rocker Jack White to pop-rocker Jack White.
One other note about what I'm hearing tonight over the Internet (and, wow, pretty nice sound for a live stream): The songs don 't sound quite as polished in person as I'd expect. I'm pretty sure that's on purpose, but it was a little startling. Spontaneity's one thing; sloppiness is another.
Still, would have loved to be there tonight, especially now as they're wrapping up with "Carolina Story." Bittersweetness. Ah well, at least all that government NPR money is actually doing me some good for a change.