Jack White: Discord at Radio City

Photo by Louise Sheehan/Gavel Media

Last weekend, Jack White played back-to-back shows in Boston and New York City. Both sold out within minutes.

Thanks to my impulsiveness when it comes to attending concerts, I decided it was a wise choice to empty my bank account on tickets that were three times face value. Despite the misfortunate events that were to come, I stand by this choice.

As many online bloggers and music reviews have been squawking about, I come to you with a first hand account of Jack White's "rock-and-roll diva" stunt that was pulled when he walked off stage halfway through a set at the world renown Radio City Music Hall on Saturday night.

But first thing's first: for those of you who weren't at the show in Boston on Friday, Jack White was absolutely murderous on stage. His ghastly pale skin illuminated by the baby blue Third Man backdrop, Jack White began the show by blasting into a volcanic eruption of "Sixteen Saltines", ridding the crowd of all inhibitions.

Next up was "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground", a personal favorite of mine. Things slowed down for a moment or two as Jack and a Peacock member let their souls pour over one microphone as they sang a heart-wrenching rendition of hit single, "Love Interruption." Backed by his all female band, the Peacocks, Jack took a fast-paced approach to his impromptu set that included classics from the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, and a chilling cover of Hank Williams' long-lost masterpiece, "You Know That I Know."

The inevitable encore was more explosive than I could have dreamed. Following a monstrous guitar solo during "Ball and Biscuit," Jack rips a symbol from the drums and smashes it to the floor. A steady beat sounds from the speakers; the thousands of feet in the audience begin to stomp along. It's the song all you Eagles football fans know and love, "Seven Nation Army."

Jack sings: "Don't want to hear about it/Every single one's got a story to tell/Everyone knows about it," then motions to the crowd to finish the verse, and they comply: "From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell!" White wittily remarks, "I thought so!" and ends the show ferociously.

I was literally dumbfounded when I exited Agganis Arena. It was an existential performance - the most mind altering concert I have ever attended. I sat up all night talking about it. I woke up thinking about it. I thought about it the entire five-hour bus ride to New York City until it was time to see him again.

Let me begin by saying that Radio City Music Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever stepped foot in. Elegant spiral staircases wrap around Ezra Winter covered walls and allow the hustle-bustle of dressed-to-impress guests. There is a bathroom lounge fit for the royal family that compels the jaws of each newcomer to hit the floor. Oh, and the toilets are equipped with gizmos that automatically shrink wrap the seats with sanitary plastic after each use. Case in point: this is NOT the venue an artist wants to disappoint at. Apparently Jack White didn't use the bathroom.

As the lights began to dim, a member of Jack White's posse addresses the audience and kindly asks that there be no cell phone use during the show. The sold out crowd at Radio City defied this request, keeping their gadgets out. After all, when was the last time you've looked around a room that isn't occupied by at least one or two smart phones being mindlessly scrolled through? It's a tragedy that in this day and age, people are so preoccupied by technology and social networking that they can't even immerse themselves in a rock and roll concert without uploading a photo to Facebook.

Jack White took the stage with his all male band, the Buzzards, and began the set with an accelerated rendition of "Black Math" that transitioned into an ecstasy-inducing "Missing Pieces."

Displeased with the energy level of the crowd, Jack sarcastically addressed his fans: "What is this, an NPR Convention?" At one point, he pushed even further, asking if we would prefer for him to play the remainder of the show acoustically. I don't blame the guy - the chick two seats away from me even had the audacity to sit down through a couple songs. Seriously? At a Jack White concert? It baffles me.

After merely 50 minutes of live music, the iconic musician exited the stage and wished us goodnight. Those who surrounded me began to speculate that maybe he was cutting the show in half so that the Peacocks could play the second set, but I knew Jack White rarely did this. He is, however, a man with sleeves full of tricks. Recently, he played a surprise show at a laundromat in Portland. My mind began racing with thoughts of what he might do next. The possibility that he would not come onstage never once occurred to me.

Twenty minutes of absence had the crowd in a frenzy. Thousands of voices joined together in a "Seven Nation Army" chant that echoed "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!" throughout the music hall, demanding the wait to be over.

And then the lights came on. People began to leave. I laughed at them and joined many other fans in the opportunity to relocate to the front row. It was only minutes now, I thought. I envisioned how grateful I would be that I waited it out... that my favorite musician would reward me with some kind of historical performance.

That performance never happened. Roadies took the stage; the curtains fell. Radio City employees announced it was time for us to leave. Rumors regarding Jack's disappearance blossomed and dispersed. One security guard commented, "I don't know where he went, but I can tell you that he's not here. He walked right out the door as soon as he got off stage. He's gone." A representative of the artist refused to comment.

Angry mobs gave rise to riots outside the venue as furious fans screamed absurdities, smashed parked cars and cursed, "Fuck Jack White!" Hundreds of protesters chaotically demanded their money back and surrendered their respect for White.

Fans from all over are claiming that this "selfish" move by Jack White has ridiculed his reputation as a musical genius capable of overcoming difficulties in the face of creating art. If he's so untouchable, they wonder, how could factors as small as poor sound quality or a few boring fans stop him from playing an incredible show?

I'll tell you how.

Jack White is a perfectionist when it comes to aestheticism, musicality, and personality. He always has been - isn't that one of the reasons we respect him so much? He is a mad musical genius, comparable to many other brilliant artists throughout history. Take Van Gogh cutting his own ear off for example. He did it in a fit of madness and demanded to be heard.

I saw Jack White put on a stellar show in Boston on Friday. I got my fix. Maybe I'm biased, but I've seen what Jack is capable of when he plays live. He is completely consumed by what he creates on stage. That's why fans pay money to see him.

So why are fans on cell phones during his show? Why are they not giving him the respect he deserves when he compares them to an NPR convention? Why are fans not completely consumed in his music?

Saturday night was not a "diva" moment for Jack White, despite claims by the media and ignorant "fans." He didn't want to leave the stage. Communication with his audience is what drives his genius on stage, and fans at Radio City weren't giving it to him. That's not selfish; it's refusing to be disrespected. He demanded to be heard. We should all demand to be heard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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