Tuesday 30 Sep 2014

The #JackWhiteDebacle

“F*** YOU Jack White you have lost me as a fan forever”

Perhaps not my finest moment, but at 10:31 p.m. Saturday night, it was exactly how I felt.

There’s a lot being said about Saturday night’s Radio City Music Hall performance. Twitter was exploding with posts, many like mine, Saturday night into Sunday morning, and from what I see, the Twitter freak-out, tantrum, whatever you want to call it, is still going. (Just search #jackwhitedebacle or #jackwhite). Here’s my commentary on the evening; I’ll leave the more colorful words to myself.

I had been really looking forward to this concert. My husband Lou and I were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary, it was my first time at Radio City Music Hall, and I love Jack White. Lou had seen him perform with the female band, The Peacocks, at Roseland back in May and, while he wasn’t feeling the venue, he had said Jack White put on a “brilliant” show and that the encore, which he performed with the male band, was great. I had high hopes for the night, having not before heard things like “he’s once performed with his back turned to the audience the entire time” or “he played a one-note show and left”. That might have prepared me.

We took our seats in the 2nd mezzanine before opening band Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three took the stage. The audience was pretty thin for their performance but the boys played with heart and sounded great. Though I wasn’t familiar with their songs, Pokey Lafarge’s voice was strong and clear and Koenig was a beast with the harmonica (yes, seriously) and those around for it genuinely seemed to enjoy it. Pokey and guitarist Adam Hoskins did comment once or twice about the sound, about not being able to hear us, but at that time I just figured it was because there really wasn’t a lot of people around for their performance.

Crowd started to fill in while the roadies got the stage ready for Jack White. Someone came out to announce that Jack would like us to put down the cell phones for his performance, enjoy and get into the music, that his photographer would be on stage taking photos and we could download them after the show from his website for free. Some people applauded, seemingly agreeing with the sentiment that we’re all missing life happening in front of us because of our phones. Ironic, considering the Twitter backlash that happened afterwards!

Jack White takes the stage with his all-male band – I had really been hoping for The Peacocks – and begins wailing with Black Math. Everyone that I could see in the 2nd mezz and below were up on their feet and rocking. Missing Pieces, Sixteen Saltines, and John the Revelator followed with hardly no banter or a word from Jack. The songs were hard, and fast; the music sounded great, I was definitely up and dancing. But it was next to impossible to distinguish any lyrics. Some would say they don’t care; I tend to be a lyric person, especially brilliantly written ones like his, but that didn’t seem to be a priority. Also, what was missing from him was feeling. There was no emotion to any of the songs, he hardly looked into the audience or acknowledged us until…

“Jesus Christ, is this an NPR convention?” This is one of the first things he says to the sold out crowd at Radio City Music Hall. I was a bit confused since it seemed pretty loud in there, but laughed it off the first time. Love Interruption, a song that just kills me when I listen to it, was lackluster at best, performed much faster than the album with no backing vocals, and again, no emotion. After Love Interruption, he said something about playing an acoustic set, which I would have loved!, but I obviously misheard him because it never happened and I later read on the Rolling Stone site that he “suggested performing the rest of the show acoustically, which he joked only ten percent of fans would want.” There were a few more songs, a few more comments (“quiet down because I can’t hear myself think”) then after Ball and Biscuit, he thanked the audience and walks off the stage. He was on stage for, at most, 50 minutes.

The crowd started cheering and clapping, and we’re all thinking, he’s totally coming out for an encore. Actually Lou and I speculated it might be more of an intermission, maybe he’s coming out with the female band. Something. So we wait. People start singing Seven Nation Army, a song he hadn’t yet performed, but I started to get a little anxious when I saw the roadies come out and grab the guitars. Still, Lou reminded me about the Roseland show, where there was a second stage setup that he didn’t even notice until Jack and the Peacocks came out for the encore. So we continued to wait. After about 15-20 minutes, the house lights go up and it’s clear, he’s not coming back. We (and I mean that collectively, as in most of the audience) were still standing there, immobile with confusion and then anger. We were robbed, not only of an encore but a full set. (I’ve read Sunday night’s performance went 85 minutes before a break, then a 4-song encore). Finally, we left, walking past the Merchandise Table saying, “don’t buy anything!” It was rumored a lot of people were actually returning items they had purchased, but I can’t confirm if that was true.

There were a lot of tweets going up, most from people actually there, others from people responding to those of us that were there. Those other people wrote things like we’re just wealthy hipsters whining that there wasn’t encore, we don’t know a genius when we see one, and my favorite, this is rock and roll, get over it. I know what rock and roll is. I can’t remember a concert I’ve been to with less connection to the audience or more disdain for the people who came out and supported the musician they were seeing. We are parents of 3 young kids with no family nearby; it isn’t easy for us to get out and into the city but we do it, a lot some would say, because of our passion for music. We’ve seen $10 shows at Terminal 5 and Mercury Lounge that have blown our minds, and saw The Black Keys at MSG, which left us on a natural high for awhile after the concert. There are comments about his artistry and how we should get over the fact that he didn’t perform Seven Nation Army (hey, I’m okay with that; I was waiting for Freedom at 21, which he also didn’t play). Joe Jackson is an artist that doesn’t perform his songs like they are on the album; he’s been quoted as saying if you want to hear the song the same way every time, stay home and listen to the CD. I get that…but still, it didn’t feel like artistry to me; it felt like a race and again, for me, the lack of emotion or any kind of connection was just disappointing.

My last thought on this is – and really, you deserve a prize if you read this whole thing – there didn’t seem to be any respect or love for the fans. There were definitely other concerts going on in and around NYC. We made a choice to be at his If he didn’t like the vibe or the acoustics, in my opinion he should have finished the set and took it up with his booking manager later. If he hates NY (some people tweeted that NY’ers have bad attitudes, no wonder Jack didn’t play longer), don’t play NY again. If there was something wrong with the sound, take a break, see if it can be fixed, and come back out; I read he did that in Boston. We’d be cool with that, I promise. But leaving us hanging, not just wanting more but wanting SOMETHING, was not what I expected and frankly, not what I or any of us deserved.

10 Comments

  1. Steven W-M says:

    Bravo, Lisa. I’m sorry that you and Lou had to face such disappointment, but thank you for sharing your experience. I find this inexcusable. I love Jack’s music, but in my humble opinion, he’s far from a “genius” and this NOT what rock and roll is supposed to be about. Whether or not you’re a fan of his, I saw Bruce Springsteen last weekend and he put on an exhilarating 3 1/2 hour show, leaving fans breathless at the end. THAT, is rock and roll. What you saw is an ungrateful, self-indulgent prick ripping his audience off. Shame on him…

    Reply
  2. Eugene says:

    NYers DO have attitude…but we know our music. good write up, screw him… Lets see if he comes out with a statement about the sound to explain this away. Personally, I’ve been to too many concerts to remember. I would much rather a band play all of the songs they are going to play and not make the audience lose their voices in order to get the encore. With certain bands we all know what are their encore songs and how many they’ll play. why do we have to yell for 10 minutes to get them to come back on. Do you need a break, take a break. We saw Cake at williamsburg Waterfront and that is pretty much what they did. No opening band, then they came out and played a full set, about an hour…took an intermission (which they announced) and came back out for another set. I don’t remember an encore, but with two sets I was done.

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  3. George says:

    Yes, but how do you really feel about the concert?

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  4. Thom I says:

    Lisa, thank you for your thoughts. I am outraged at this kind of behavior. I felt the same way when I first saw Bob Dylan at Duchess Stadium @ 5 years ago. He came on played some tunes; the oldies were played in a style that did not do them justice. He never once acknowledged the crowd and left with no ebcore. Musicans are there for only one reason “to have a relationship with their audience” Livingston Taylor.
    That is one show you won’t be seeing me spend my precious dollars on or CD’s even if they are free. I will recall this story to all the young teen musicians I mentor through The Justin Veatch Fund and tell them you are there to share the music not for the fame.

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  5. cat the great says:

    great write up – where’s my prize for reading it all? lol but thank you for an objective article. What a jerk… people need to remember how they got where they are – by US being fans. I remember “meeting” Mike Myers (recently) – he was in a public bar, but gave everyone stink eye when we looked his way or tried to snap a pic. And, by snap a pic, I mean take out a cell phone from 30 feet away! not going and bothering him. Someone said “Hey Mike, not like you’ve done anything lately” as they walked out. I had to laugh.

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  6. Chris says:

    Brevity not strong in that one. Great post though.

    and Cat you are entered in the “leave a comment” contest we’re running. So you got that going.

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  7. Lisa P says:

    Thanks for reading and for the comments! As I mentioned to Thom on facebook, someone responded to my tweet saying art and craft are two different things. Craft is playing for the fans. Art happens regardless of the fans, and if the artist chooses to share with the fans, they should be grateful. Thoughts?

    Another comment on facebook was that White’s concert had lots of emotion and that he probably chose to leave early due to poor sound. Also that his show, at around the one hour mark, was not atypical. We’re all entitled to our opinions; this was my take on the night, though I know I’m not alone. 50 minutes may have been long enough if he hadn’t been so condensing to the audience like we weren’t worthy of his “art” and if I hadn’t known that most of his shows do indeed go longer, like Sunday night.

    I love the comments and feedback though, thank you!

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  8. brighid says:

    It boggles my mind when “artists” forget that their fans are the ones support them. You don’t play Radio City Music Hall without being a businessman first and artist second..

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  9. Chris says:

    Hear hear. Thanks Brig.

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  10. Mary says:

    I would be disappointed for a year if I had been at that show. He should take some lessons from the Boss. I saw him at Met Life a few weeks ago and he played for 3 hours 45 minutes. Definitely gives his fans their moneys worth!

    Reply

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