Sam Rosenberg

Radio City Music Hall was buzzing Sunday night with gossip about the night before. Jack White, in the most diva way possible, stormed off the stage after playing less than an hour with no encore or reason presented to the crowd.  One story going around was he was heckled and got sour; others claimed it was cameras and flash photography in his face that bothered him. This man rocked Webster Hall in April, and sold out two shows at Radio City in minutes. The pressure was on to redeem himself to his loyal fans.

The opening act, Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three was fantastic!  The acoustic 4-some included two guitars, one upright bass and a bearded man on percussion, playing everything from snare to harmonica to washboard. Their music was an eclectic mix of Old Crow Medicine Show, The Avett Brothers, and tinged with their own old timey charm with tunes about whiskey, music, and family.  Between songs, Pokey LaFarge shared a joke or story and made transitions seems fun and friend, “You guys like raging harmonica?”  Yes, Pokey.  We do!

Jack White took the stage at 9:10pm. He appeared with his all-female band, the Peacocks, beginning with a new song “Missing Pieces.” White’s new album is a studio gem and played on repeat on mp3 players and Spotify enthusiasts across the world since it came out in April. The tunes from this album are also great to hear live, even though Radio City does not make it easy to decipher White’s mumbled lyrics.

His unique vocals and short songs make him a favorite for fans of many genres.  The first half of the set was fairly mellow, with his band almost overshadowed, as he didn’t start pushing the rock star moves until halfway through.

He went into his own version of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” in seamlessly edgy rock & roll style. He definitely made it his own changing “Maggie” to “Penny” and fans barely recognized it as a cover. The crowd screamed and cheered the entire time.  White also played an amazing version of James Booker’s “Papa Was a Rascal” on the piano.

Jack and the band choreographed a quick walk off the stage at 10:07 with guitar feedback filling the venue. The crowd was excited as he came back on for a 4-song encore at 10:11. Another show highlight was an energetic version of “Seven Nation Army” almost strategically placed in the encore; the same song waiting fans were singing the night before, after White has already walked off the stage. The people demanded it and he, in part, delivered. The last note of the show played at 10:27.

Was this redemption?  Considering it is his fifth show in New York City in six months (Webster Hall, two at Roseland Ballroom, and Saturday and Sunday at Radio City), his level of professionalism is extremely suspect after this two-night run. It is not a good sign when you are watching the clock to make sure you get your money’s worth. He played 21 songs in 77 minutes, which is a huge step up from the night before, but for a venue like Radio City Music Hall and the cost of a ticket to see a show there, acts must deliver. The show was a good time; however, maybe he bit off more than he could chew at Radio City Music Hall. I put him on top of the list of “Acts that Thrive in Mid-Sized Venues” and will only see him again if he plays a venue where he can hear us sing along and we can receive his rock star energy right back.