Meg White turned to the White Stripes’ archivist and dropped a bombshell moments before taking the stage on July 31, 2007 for a performance at Snowden Grove Park Amphitheater in Southaven, Miss.: “I think this is the last White Stripes show.”
The White Stripes had blazed a trail as one of the era’s biggest rock acts in the decade prior to that night. Jack White’s formidable guitar and vocals coupled with an uninhibited imagination to help the duo spearhead a garage-rock revival. Their first two albums, 1999’s self-titled release and 2000’s De Stijl, were underground sensations. White Blood Cells became their mainstream breakthrough in 2001, thanks largely to the hit song “Fell in Love With a Girl.” The hits would keep on coming, with the White Stripes were soon hailed among rock’s elite.
The White Stripes were still riding high that night in Mississippi. Their sixth studio album, Icky Thump, had come out six weeks earlier, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard chart – a career high for the band. This was supposed to be the final stop on an initial run of shows, with the band and their team scheduled to take a six-week break before returning for a more extensive trek. Yet behind the scenes, Meg had been struggling with her mental health and that’s what convinced her that the White Stripes had reached the end of the road.
Of course, these facts were unknown to fans at the time, including the roughly 11,000 people who’d turned out to see the band in Southaven. The White Stripes delivered a typically incendiary set, ripping through their own hits – “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “Icky Thump,” “Hotel Yorba” – as well as covers of such place-appropriate blues luminaries as Robert Johnson and Son House.
“I can’t even tell you how much it means for me to be here tonight,” Jack declared at one point, alluding to his deep respect for Mississippi’s Delta blues. “So I’m not even gonna bother.”
Watch the White Stripes Perform ‘Icky Thump’ During Their Final Concert
For all of his swagger, passion and incredible musical ability, Jack remained a student of music at heart. He was never shy about paying tribute to artists who had an impact, ranging from blues legends to rock ‘n’ roll icons. The White Stripes’ enigmatic frontman also seemed to develop a healthy relationship with fame as it blossomed over the years. The same couldn’t be said, however, for his counterpart.
“Meg is a very shy girl, a very quiet and shy person,” Jack later told Music Radar, noting that the pace at which the White Stripes were moving only heightened her stress: “We were playing two shows a day in Canada, then we’d fly to France and do a TV show there, then we were back in England on tour, and we were just killin’ it, man. The train was out of control.”
On Sept. 11, the White Stripes announced the cancellation of their remaining 2007 shows due to Meg’s “acute anxiety.” In a brief message to fans, they added: “We hate to let people down and are very sorry.”
As months turned into years, rumors would swirl around the band’s status. Jack turned his attention to side projects like the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, while insisting the White Stripes were not done. He even hinted that new music was in the works.
A 2009 appearance on the final episode of Late Night With Conan O’Brien gave fans further hope, but a lengthier reunion was not to be. The White Stripes officially broke up on Feb. 2, 2011. That July Mississippi show was their final concert, just as Meg had predicted.
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