Glastonbury Day 2: Jack White

Jack White did not come to Glastonbury for the magical healing vibes. Good.

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Jack White did not come to Glastonbury for the magical healing vibes. Good.

Sandwiched between Robert Plant and Metallica on the Pyramid Stage, the shock-headed master of electric blues-punk seems to have something to prove. Is he looking to upstage the competition, shake up the crowd, or just punch somebody? Maybe all three.

I must confess, I was never much of a White Stripes fan – but this convulsive, combustible set is a total blast. Backed by a full-blooded R&B band, White is yelping like a scalded dog, playing licks that scream like dive-bombing Stukas and riffs more ragged than the bloody stumps of severed limbs. But it’s got burlesque raunch and hip-hop swagger too. Sex as a kinetic contact sport. With both band and stage decked out in the blue-and-white colour scheme of White’s new solo album “Lazaretto“, this show is a weapons-grade sensory assault. Punctuated by piercing feedback, bone-breaking crunch and fuse-blowing crackle, it’s the love-hate irreverence that really exhilarates. At times it feels like witnessing a subversive avant-garde noise band demolishing the blues-rock canon from within.

Mashing tracks from “Lazaretto” with a healthy spread of White Stripes tunes and some re-energised blues standards, White even throws in a blast of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. It clangs onto the stage like a chainmail gauntlet. Between songs, he tosses out cryptic remarks about Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley visiting him in his hotel room, as well as other typically sullen and evasive asides. When he wishes love on the Glastonbury crowd, it sounds vaguely like a threat.

Tonight’s blood-boiling 90-minute blues explosion climaxes with White falling back through the drum kit, blown off his feet by the ungovernable chaos he has unleashed from the molten depths of his own ego. He has probably made as many enemies as friends with this gnarly, ear-splitting show. My guess is that’s exactly what he intended.
Stephen Dalton

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