First off I have to admit a dark secret: I, on occasion, dream about Vault packages. It's not some weird occurring thing, and before you ask it's perfectly asexual but whenever an announcement is scheduled for the next day or so my subconscious can't help but have weird thoughts about what the Bens and Jack might come up with. The dreams are always weird packages featuring sessions you never thought existed or concerts that no one has ever heard but Blackwell assures are amazing. So I woke up this morning to the most recent Vault announcement and my first thought was, is this another Vault dream? You mean to tell me that The White Stripes recorded Love and Otis Redding covers in 1997? You're actually releasing the final show, which I carry around a bootleg of on my iPod, as a soundboard on 180 gram vinyl? There's a fucking uncirculated DVD from 2000 that's being shipped to my house in June? You have to forgive me for thinking this is a dream because the content is so left-field and so deliciously deep into the fanboy mindset that it's bizarre just thinking about these releases having their own album artwork.
What should we expect from this package?
First off the single is anyones guess. I'm pretty sure no one has ever heard these tracks before or even know they existed. Not only does this predate the earliest recorded material by the band, Let's Shake Hand, it even predates the earliest circulating bootleg recording. We're through the looking glass here people.
Jumping to the next era of the band we've got a DVD from 2000, just after the release of De Stijl. Assuming that it's a soundboard recording of the concert than this would make it the earliest soundboard recording of the White Stripes readily available, let alone the earliest live Stripes show officially released. If that doesn't get you a bit aroused then consider that before today there was no known recording, audio or video, of this concert in fact the fucking set list wasn't even known to anyone!
And then we come to my favourite part, the LP of the White Stripes final concert which I actually do know something about. The show is not a Last Waltz-esque tribute to the bands entire career, we have Under Nov Scotian Lights for that kind of thing. No, this is an entirely different beast. You can hear that Jack's moving on to different things, his voice is more subtle, more expressive, a far cry from the shrieking of 1997 that's for sure. When he sings Same Boy You've Always Known it's as if he wants to be more like Bob Dylan and less like Gun Club. On the same note he delivers a melancholy solo performance of 300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues, not unlike a folky Dylan. If you'll indulge me on this tangent Jack would go on to perform with Dylan later that year. Of course they can still thrash as well as ever. There's an intense scream-fest in set-opener Stop Breaking Down but the other blues songs, like a rare performance of Phonograph Blues show a new maturity in their understanding of the blues, an epiphany brought on by their Mississippi environment. There's a general sense of the band growing too big for itself, Jack wants to break out into bigger things and the minimalism has reached it's natural course but he lets go of the Stripes' old conventions without contempt, but with affection. There's a sultry take of Apple Blossom, a funked-up reworking of Astro and some of the greatest guitar work ever captured on Ball & Biscuit. They sound tired and the end of an era looms over the show but they still play beautiful music one last time and we're lucky to be able to hear it. At the end of Boll Weevil he tells the crowd, I don't wanna go but I gotta go and that sums it all up. There's still so much joy left in this pairing but ultimately the band has run it's course and concluded the journey they started ten years ago.
So I'm pretty sure I'm not dreaming and that we are getting this stuff but holy crap is this a good way to pay tribute to our favourite red and white duo. If you're not a member of the Vault and can scrape together the cash you HAVE to sign up now.