Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 34: White Stripes Live In Detroit 1999 – 2000 - 2001

The 34th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in December of 2017. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The 34th Vault package consisted of a 3-LP set collecting three early live shows from the White Stripes, performed by the duo of Jack and Meg White in the Detroit area during the years 1999, 2000, and 2001. There was no 7-inch single in this package. Each 180-gram LP came with a die-cut outer sleeve and a colored inner sleeve, and all three LP’s were housed in a red slipcase (pictured below). Logically enough, the three discs demonstrate a progression in the duo’s performing over that time period.

The first disc, Live At The Magic Bag, was recorded on July 30, 1999 in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale. The LP is pressed in red vinyl. This show was the first one the White Stripes performed after the release of their self-titled debut album. It’s the spottiest of the three discs in this set – not to say that it’s half-bad, but it does tend to be patchy, in terms of both recording (the first track jumps in near the end of “Jimmy The Exploder”) and performing. Most of the first side finds the Whites – who were then married but pretending to be siblings – breathlessly plowing through minimalist blues-rock songs drawn primarily from that first album, with Jack often spitting out the lyrics furiously. “Wasting My Time” and the cover of the Bacharach/David tune “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” (which the duo would eventually record for their fourth album) are the standouts from this portion of the concert. In mid-show, Jack switches over to a piano for three songs, resulting in fresh-sounding renditions of “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground”, “St. James Infirmary Blues”, and Bob Dylan’s “Love Sick”. (This was reportedly the first time the Stripes incorporated piano into their live show, giving this concert some historical significance). Jack goes back to his electric guitar for most of the remaining numbers, but plays those songs in more of a slow-burn fashion. The high point of this round is their performance of the early single “Lafayette Blues”. Jack does turn to the piano one more time for an early (and slightly awkward) version of “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket”, before regaining his electric fury on the show-closer “Broken Bricks”.

The second LP, Live At The Magic Stick, was recorded at a different but similarly named Detroit area venue on August 18, 2000. Pressed in standard black vinyl, this disc has a slightly muffled sound quality that often makes it sound distant, but the recorded concert is an excellent one. Taking place two months after the release of their sophomore album De Stijl, this shows the duo in more focused and developed form than on the first disc, having considerably honed their primitive guitar-and-drums blues attack during the previous year. The selections from the debut album that appear on both of the first two discs are performed better here, and the six selections from De Stijl are performed solidly. “Death Letter” and “Little Bird” form a particularly impressive double-feature of small-scale Led Zeppelin-esque blues-rock intensity. This version of “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” seems almost fully developed into its White Blood Cells form. To top it off, this concert also contains super covers of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, Screaming Lord Sutch’s “Jack The Ripper”, and Captain Beefheart’s “Ashtray Heart” (the latter of which the Stripes studio-recorded for a Sub Pop fan club single that served as an inspiration for the Third Man Vault).

The third LP, Live At The Gold Dollar / Volume 4, features the final show performed by the duo at the titular Detroit venue, recorded on June 7, 2001. (Volumes 1 through 3 were issued in Vault packages thirteen and twenty-six). This disc, pressed in white vinyl, probably would have been titled “White Blood Cells – Live” if it were released commercially. The duo performed the then-new White Blood Cells album in its entirety and in sequence, and it is reportedly the only time the White Stripes ever performed such a concert. This concert may be as pivotal as the album, capturing the duo as they were unknowingly heading for mainstream recognition, and expanding their musical palette. For starters, we get an even further developed version of “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground”, and a version of “Hotel Yorba” that sounds more melodic than most live versions I’ve heard, despite Meg’s barbaric drumming. “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” also sounds more fully realized here than on the Magic Bag disc. The raucous Pixies-like punk rocker “Fell In Love With A Girl” – which was a breakthrough hit for the duo – faithfully recreates the potent sub-two-minute energy burst of the studio version. The innocent folk ballad “We’re Going To Be Friends” actually sounds better in this setting than on the studio album. “The Union Forever”, “Offend In Every Way”, and “I Can’t Wait” slowly build the type of blues-rock tension we expect from the Whites, but – like its accompanying studio album – Gold Dollar / Volume 4 also shows the duo transitioning toward other styles. “I Think I Smell A Rat” and “I Can Learn” have hints of flamenco rhythms. “Aluminum” and “Little Room” also foreshadow the types of quirkiness that the Stripes would explore toward the end of their recording career. Like its studio version, the show-closer “This Protector” – an eerie piano ballad about the 1972 Buffalo Creek flood in West Virginia – has Jack and Meg sharing the vocals, but Meg’s role is more noticeable here, and the use of electric organ instead of acoustic piano adds a new wrinkle to the grim subject.

As a visual bonus, the Live In Detroit 1999 – 2000 – 2001 package also came with a set of high-quality reproduction prints of the posters designed by Jack White to publicly advertise each of these three shows in the Detroit area, further illustrating the humble beginnings represented by these pre-stardom shows.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these LP’s. The Live At The Magic Bag LP has “Boom boom diddum daddum waddum choo” carved in Side One, and “Say a little prayer for yourselves” carved in Side Two. The Live At The Magic Stick LP has “Easy, an easel” carved in Side One, and “so stupid early ds shout save” carved in Side Two. The Live At The Gold Dollar / Volume 4 LP has “Three TVs” carved in Side One, and “Show So Little To See” carved in Side Two.

The White Stripes “Live In Detroit 1999 – 2000 - 2001” (Third Man Vault 34) 2017

The White Stripes “Live At The Magic Bag” (Third Man TMR-524) 2017

Track Listing:


1. Jimmy The Exploder
2. Wasting My Time
3. Astro
4. Cannon / John The Revelator
5. The Big Three Killed My Baby
6. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
7. Love Sick


8. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
9. St. James Infirmary Blues
10. Suzy Lee
11. Stop Breaking Down
12. Lafayette Blues
13. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
14. You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket
15. Broken Bricks

The White Stripes “Live At The Magic Stick” (Third Man TMR-525) 2017

Track Listing:


1. You’re Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl)
2. When I Hear My Name
3. Jolene
4. Cannon / John The Revelator
5. Apple Blossom
6. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
7. Death Letter
8. Little Bird


9. Jimmy The Exploder
10. I’m Bound To Pack It Up
11. Broken Bricks
12. Hello Operator
13. Astro / Jack The Ripper
14. Ashtray Heart
15. Do
16. Let’s Shake Hands

The White Stripes “Live At The Gold Dollar / Volume 4” (Third Man TMR-526) 2017

Track Listing:


1. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
2. Hotel Yorba
3. I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman
4. Fell In Love With A Girl
5. Expecting
6. Little Room
7. The Union Forever
8. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known


9. We’re Going To Be Friends
10. Offend In Every Way
11. I Think I Smell A Rat
12. Aluminum
13. I Can’t Wait
14. Now Mary
15. I Can Learn
16. This Protector

Reviews of other Third Man Vault packages