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White Stripes rock with red-hot intensity

Yes, the White Stripes wear enough red, black, and white to blend in at a Santa Claus convention, and their shtick about being brother and sister -- instead of a once-married couple -- has grown incessantly tired and thin.

Yet none of that mattered last night when rock's unlikely dynamic duo stormed through an ear-stinging 75-minute set at the Opera House. With the fiendishly dapper Jack White on guitar -- as well as piano and marimba -- and the regally insouciant Meg White on drums, the band raised an inspired, bombastic, and bluesy hard-rock ruckus.

The near-sellout crowd hit their feet as the Stripes hit the stage flanked by -- what else? -- a red, black, and white backdrop with palm trees, and an apple in a spiky pale sunburst. They went about their business with a brutal efficiency. There was no chatter, just one bludgeoning song after another.

''Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," from their 2001 breakthrough ''White Blood Cells," was played with a note of barbed whimsy, while the next song, ''Blue Orchid," from their current CD, the splendidly named ''Get Behind Me Satan," was as willfully frayed and tattered as an old pair of jeans.

This was a masterfully musical show, and Jack proved there's more to him than his sinister thin mustache and nifty black hats. For the jaunty pop of ''My Doorbell," he played piano. And on the quirky number, ''The Nurse," he played marimba, leading to an extended call-and-response with Meg's drums.

On record, Meg's drumming can be awkward and clunky, yet live she achieves a kind of rhythmic bash, without ever seeming to break a sweat. She and Jack have an intriguing chemistry, prodding each other along through tunes like ''The Hardest Button to Button" and ''I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself." One of their biggest hits, ''Seven Nation Army," was saved for the encore, its stomp-along riffs dropping like guillotine blades.

Opening the show with their own taut, economical garage-rock blues was the Greenhornes, whose fine 30-minute set deserved more than the smattering of people who arrived early enough to enjoy it.

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