Published Feb 21, 2010Jack White says it best in Under Great White Northern Lights, the new documentary of the White Stripes's 2007 Canadian tour, when he cites a review that called them simultaneously the most fake and the most real band in the world. That accurately sums up the tour as well, probably the most cunning way a band ever devised to turn an entire nation into devoted fans.
In meticulous fashion, the White Stripes performed in every province and territory that summer, along with surprise daytime appearances prior to each concert. These included playing in a bowling alley in Saskatoon, on a bus in Winnipeg, in a pool hall in Halifax, and on a boat in Charlottetown.
However, what director Emmett Malloy has captured with his cinema verite approach is about as intimate a glimpse of Jack and Meg White's unique relationship as we'll ever get. Clips of many of the surprise shows are naturally here, but the bulk of the footage is drawn from stops in the Far North and the Maritimes.
Although blazing renditions of the band's best-loved material provide the framework, within that we also get to see some rare aspects of our country through Jack and Meg's eyes. Particularly poignant is a meeting with Inuit elders in Iqaluit, and a full kilts & bagpipes cannon-firing ceremony on Citadel Hill in Halifax held in their honour. Jack had discovered his Scottish-via-Nova Scotia heritage just prior to the tour, and the film's climax is the band's 10th anniversary show at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay. But while Under Great White Northern Lights is essential viewing for any Canadian fan for the live footage alone, by the end it really becomes a love story. What the film ultimately shows is that, both musically and emotionally, the bond between Jack and Meg is about as real as it gets.