Death Letter

I used to listen to music constantly, so much so that it seemed it accompanied everything I did. Well, everything I did except for running, oddly enough. These days, not so much. I can’t really explain why it’s come to this either. My wife and I watched Almost Famous the during the Blizzaster and it made me think back to my younger crazier days.

Concerts used to be the norm for me. Big shows, little shows, it didn’t matter. My only regret is not using earplugs all those times (what?!). It sucks knowing that that chapter in my life is gone. Younger Eric is dead and buried, and even if I was willing I’d definitely be out of place at many of the types of shows I used to attend. Who’s that old guy?

Being on my feet for hours at a time in a tight crowd was something I used to be able to handle but now I want none of it anyway. It’s also safe to say that I’d probably find it all to be a little too loud (see earplugs line above).

In thinking back to those days a thought occurred to me: my favorite songs to see live by my two favorite bands were both covers. Aerosmith was my go-to band growing up and nothing topped the way they brought the house with Train Kept A Rollin’. Later (and currently) it was the White Stripes, and of all their tunes, I thought their cover of Death Letter was incredible.

Keep in mind that Aerosmith used to be relevant for quite a while. I pretty much refuse to even acknowledge their existence anymore. Steven Tyler joining American Idol wasn’t even the last straw. Well before then, I seem to recall Joe Perry joining some talent-less douchetard on the Idol stage to perform an Aerosmith song. They were dead to me. How could this happen to a band that was so cool?

No song seemed to personify that more than Train. They routinely blew the audience away with it. The band even recognized it as their showstopper, which says a lot considering the sheer volume of hits they have spanning a couple of different decades.

As much as I love that cover, it still can’t beat the White Stripes cover of Death Letter. Consider that Train is an old Yardbirds song, and if you’re familiar with the Yardbirds you probably know the legacy of guitarists they featured. Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page all spent some time with the Yardbirds, which seems pretty unbelievable if you think about it. Although Aerosmith breathed new life and energy into the song, the Yardbirds set it up quite nicely for them.

Death Letter is old Son House song, just a real classic example of stripped-down, bare-bones, old school blues. I first heard it on the Stripes second album, De Stijl. It’s very good on the album, but pales in comparison to the live rendition. The album cut is about 4:30, but the live version is typically about 3 minutes longer, and Jack White spent the extra time trying to melt his guitar. Just comparing the difference in tempo and energy between the live and studio Stripes versions is pretty drastic, but then compare that live version to the Son House original? Holy shit.

This performance from the Grammys a few years back is a great example. Plus you get some Seven Nation Army as a bonus:

Death Letter starts just over two minutes into it. Although it’s an abbreviated version of the song, they make it count. I can’t tell if that’s a ridiculous lighting effect or if Jack is on the verge of spontaneously combusting, but going by how amazing it sounds I’m willing to be it’s the latter.

Luckily for me, Jack White came along just as Aerosmith were turning into a living joke, a parody of itself (a rock version of The Office). Now I have a new favorite with new music to look forward to.

While I’m randomly going on about songs I love live, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Monkey Wrench by the Foo Fighters. You probably already know where I’m going with this, if you’ve seen it live or just love the song as much I do. It’s an awesome song to begin with, but they do a great job of building the energy right up to the “one last thing before I quit” part, at which point everyone just seems to be eagerly anticipating shouting along with them. But they pause, sometimes just long enough to get the anticipation boiling over, other times for so long that you start to fear they decided not to finish the song. Finish it they do!

What songs do love seeing live? Why?


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About ejnshow

Runner. Writer. Lover of the absurd. Hobbies include bringing all three of these elements together.

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