The White Stripes, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Hammersmith Apollo, London

Jack White has long been obsessed with the number three, and tonight's unholy trinity involves him, his "sister" (otherwise known as his ex-wife), Meg, and a big glowing apple. Fittingly, for a band whose current album is called Get Behind Me Satan, this forbidden fruit will pulse red and white behind them all night, looming like a symbol of original sin as they charge through a riotous show. In his ominous black hat, Jack is like a scarecrow that has come to life and comes busking at the farmhouse door. And he has changed his name, to suit both his fascination and his location. "For this tour I want to be known as Three Quid," he announces, adding that he wants us to forget that we're from London and act as if we're from nowhere.

He needn't worry about about metropolitan pretensions. Females are outnumbered by males by a ratio of about 10 to one, and most of those men seem to be drunk. When Jack turns to his red concert marimba to create the lilting tones of The Nurse, one girl sits on a friend's shoulders to try and get a better view of the proceedings and is unceremoniously bottled.

Musically, things are superb. Nearly 10 songs in, Jack is still tuning his guitar, but he manages to turn it into part of the show and charge on through with impassioned aplomb. For My Doorbell he turns to the piano, his right hand belting out honky-tonk chords while his left hand plays the melody on a separate keyboard. Jolene begins very sombrely, with Jack swaying, slowly and self-consciously over his guitar until he turns to Meg and screeches through the song's chorus.

Button to Button sacrifices its tunefulness for some pneumatic guitar-and-drum punctuation, while Hotel Yorba and Seven Nation Army are the biggest crowd-pleasers. The real highlights are I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet), where the high notes take on a gospel quality, and Little Ghost, where Jack brings out a mandolin and gazes at Meg. He seems to have truly taken the character he played in the film Cold Mountain to heart, as he falls effortlessly into a giddy hillbilly strum-along, transporting us from west London to somewhere far, far away.

· At Alexandra Palace, London N22, tomorrow and Wednesday. Box office: 0870 4000 700. Then touring.


Sophie Heawood

The GuardianTramp

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