Flashback: Jack White Proves (Again) Why He’s an A-hole
All of the concert flashbacks that have been posted here on 2bitmonkey have been positive experiences. Beck and his marionettes. Daft Punk joins Phoenix onstage. Most recently, Rivers Cuomo and Wayne Coyne in matching inflatable bubble balls. I never wanted to directly address one of the most bitter concert experiences I’ve ever had, especially since it came at the hands of one of my most favorite musicians, but if Jack White refuses to let it go then why should I?
White is on the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. One of the highlights from his conversation with RS, as provided on their website, is this one:
White says he’s figured out why crowds at concerts can suck nowadays.
“People can’t clap anymore, because they’ve got a fucking texting thing in their fucking hand, and probably a drink, too!” he says. “Some musicians don’t care about this stuff, but I let the crowd tell me what to do. There’s no set list. I’m not just saying the same things I said in Cleveland last night. If they can’t give me that energy back? Maybe I’m wasting my time.”
As a frequent concert-goer, one who occasionally picks up his phone to text, and can be found with a beer in one hand, I am one of the people that White is talking about it. If only he wasn’t talking completely out of his ass. As most of my concert reviews can attest, crowds at concerts are generally amazing. If the band brings the passion and energy, they always bring it back. If it’s not happening at White’s shows, perhaps the problem lies with him, not us.
You’re instinct might be to side with White over a blogger like me, despite my concert-going credentials. I’d understand that. However, I was at the infamous Radio City Music Hall Show where White indignantly walked off the stage after playing for just 45 minutes. The Observer noted:
Mr. White’s show began with a rollicking set featuring songs from his recent solo album, Blunderbuss, and tracks from his bands: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. From our seat in the nosebleeds, it seemed as though Mr. White’s music was enthusiastically received by the crowd. However, after about 45 minutes, Mr. White suddenly left the stage.
Like that writer, I was in the (relative) nosebleeds and was on my feet singing, dancing and cheering throughout. I was genuinely enjoying the show. I guess not enough for White, who mocked the crowd by asking, “What is this, an NPR convention?” No one thought the show was over. I had paid $140 for two tickets to see Jack White expecting more than a 45 minute set. So like everyone else, I cheered. And clapped. And chanted. (It felt like we chanted “Oh…oh-OH-oh oh OHH OHH” for an hour.) But White never came back out. That wasn’t the end of the first half of the set. There was no encore. The man just blew us off.
Jack White is an absolutely brilliant musician. Blunderbuss was one of the rare instances where a member of a great band (or in this case, duo) left and the solo effort exceeded his prior work. Despite my experience at Radio City, I per-ordered Lazaretto. His work with the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, the White Stripes – all fantastic. As a businessman he also seems to be exceptionally gifted. His Third Man Records is a thriving and respected record label. But none of that justifies sh*tting on his fans, which it’s now clear he’s very comfortable with.
So Jack White – if you don’t like the atmosphere at your shows, maybe you should charge less. Or play smaller venues. Or come up with creative ways to make sure that the people there are your true fans and not those that can pay the most. Lots of other artists have figured this out (and not just in music). And until then, shut up and play music.