Jack White is an interesting fellow. I've never met him, but I've seen him. He got me thinking… among other things.
I got the chance to see one of his shows this past Sunday, and initially wasn’t too stoked on it. I had had a long night the night prior, seeing Neil Young, The Black Keys, and The Foo Fighters tear it down in Central Park — life is rough, what can I say.
Anyway, I got the call from a friend that he had the extra Jack White tickets, and I had always wanted to see him; I mulled on it for a while, called a few people, and eventually convinced myself to do it. We get there, and right off the bat I’m stoked — one of those awesome takes-you-by-surprise stokes, that you don’t expect to get because of whatever reason you were initially hesitant. It happens to me with surfing and skiing all the time, but that’s another story. This kind of stoked is the best, and it’s funny how they nearly always happen when I’m apprehensive to do something at first.
Back to the point. This was the second night of a two night show, and apparently the night prior, Mr. White pulled some nonsense stunt on stage. According to the internet, around 40 minutes into his set he said, “What is this, an NPR convention!?” and a few minutes later left the stage for the night. The crowd was irate and rioted outside the theater — again, according to the internet. There’s not a lot of concrete information floating around, but based on the comment Jack made, it would seem he wasn’t happy with the crowd.
I’ve written about the relationship between the crowd and the artist before. In my opinion, and from my perspective as a member of the crowd, it’s a delicate one, and I totally agree that the crowd has a responsibility to the artist, as does the artist to the crowd. The show isn’t going to get to that euphoric level of awesomeness unless both go full throttle. But here’s where it gets interesting for me: when Jack and his band came out for the show I was attending, the entire crowd went absolutely nuts.
I’ve seen a handful of shows at Radio City Music Hall in the past year — e.g., Rodrigo y Gabriella and Florence & the Machine — and none of them got the crowd to their feet before a few songs; even then, the moments where people did start grooving were one off, following popular or particularly good songs, and were followed by lulls where people sat back down. Not Jack White. He had everyone going the second he walked into eye’s view, and after every song there was a roar of approval. No one sat down the entire show. Completely bonkers (especially for a venue with no general admission pit).
An hour later and he was still killing it. I left my seat two songs in, moved up to the rail of the first mezzanine, and didn’t stop moving until the end of the show. I don’t have a voice today and I’m pretty proud of it. Pure excellence.
But the entire show, Jack didn’t say anything. He sang, but he didn’t address the crowd at all. We addressed him, and the feedback was still apparently genuine enough that everyone was into it. But as I sit in this glow the day after, what I’m wondering now is: did Jack give a shit? The day before he pretty explicitly didn’t, but for me he seemed to be totally into it. Or was he? Is it possible that he’s just that good that he could power through not giving a fuck and still give an awe-inspiring performance? I don’t want to admit that that’s possible. It would kind of ruin it for me… but fuck, I’m still wondering? And even if he did, does it matter? I loved the show. I’ll never know what inspired it, so is it even worth contemplating its authenticity (in the sort term)? Wouldn’t it be better to just apply whatever reasoning seems appropriate and be glad I had an awesome time?
I think so, and what’s more is, the moment is over. It’s in the past, so whatever. I had an awesome time, and wasn’t thinking about this until now, and now it’s too late for any stray ideas to ruin anything. There’s nothing to ruin!
What a good show…