Headlining Governor’s Ball on June 1, the first night of the festival was 42-year-old singer, songwriter, and record producer Jack White. Though the demographic of the Governor’s Ball tends towards teenagers and young adults, White’s appearance drew in a number of older attendees, some of whom came to the festival just to see him (like the 41-year-old woman I spoke with who spoke highly and enthusiastically of White’s record label, Third Man Records).
The crowd for White’s performance began to form long before the musician took the stage, and giant, old-timey countdown clocks projected onto the stage’s side screens heightened the anticipation around 15 minutes before White appeared. As the countdown clocks struck zero, unlike other artists who left fans waiting with baited breath for their appearance, White immediately walked out, forcefully shaking the hair out of his face as he strode across the Gov Ball NYC Stage. Two giant screens flanked White as he performed, displaying neon blue tunnels of light endlessly, surrounded by lightning bolts, and the captivating image pulsed as he sang onstage.
As dramatic pillars of smoke descended into the crowd, casting shadows across the audience as they mingled with the moody blue lights beaming over the entire scene, White began his intro song, “Over and Over and Over,” off of his newest album, “Boarding House Reach.” White was smooth on the guitar as he handled difficult riffs while maintaining an even rhythm, and his calm playing was juxtaposed by the fierce intensity with which he sang into the microphone. The blue tint of the stage alluded to the similar tones used in the music video for “Over and Over and Over,” and White howled the lyrics with gusto. Blue was virtually the color of the set, with lights flashing and changing hue as they illuminated the crowd.
White’s prowess on the guitar was obvious as he seemingly never made a single error and played with an astounding ease. White performed some older tunes, one being the 2001 White Stripes song “Hotel Yorba.” At one point in the song, White relinquished his guitar, ran to the piano behind him onstage, and hastily joined the pianist in a fierce, up-tempo duo which sent the audience into peals of excitement. White seemed to build off of this energy, making high-pitched whooping sounds and caws into the microphone as he exuded vitality from every pore.
Despite his melodically and lyrically intense songs, White seemed strangely relaxed, perhaps even rigid: For the first few minutes of the set he stood directly in front of the microphone. However, during “Love Interruption,” something shifted as White belted the song’s lyrics with a new fervency. White rotated between several guitars throughout the night, and his ragged riffs coupled with the soulful aggression of his voice set a forceful, yet emotional tone.
Despite the heavy nature of his rock music, White was able to present his work often in a fun, almost light manner as he made sound effects into his microphone and played with a tangible passion and zest for the duration of his show. Though somewhat stiff at first, White did not take long to settle into the space and make the stage his own. White’s persistent zeal is truly memorable, and the ardency with which he performed each and every one of his songs while enveloped by soft blue lights was a powerful way to end the first night of the Governor’s Ball.
—Staff writer Ajibabi O. Oloko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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