Bonnaroo has seen flashier and more famous headliners, but Jack White put on a clinic on how to close out the main stage on Saturday night (June 14). On the third night of the Manchester, Tenn. fest, White proved his A-list rock star status with a passionate set that repped his two solo records and dipped into his lengthy back catalog.
The headlining set was bookended by a pair of White Stripes standards — opener “Icky Thump” and closer “Seven Nation Army” — though White saved plenty of prominent space for his solo work, especially new LP “Lazaretto,” which dropped June 10 (check out Billboard's track-by-track review here). The title track, “Three Women” and “Alone in My Home” were all included, the latter two towards the end of the set. But of course, the most frenzied reactions came from the classics.
White dug into the Stripes’ 2000 album “De Stijl” for “Little Bird” and “Hello Operator,” and offered a fleshed-out version of “We’re Going to Be Friends” with the help of his country-rock backing band. When White returned onstage for an encore after a 90-minute set, everyone knew what was coming in the end, even as the bonus segment neared a half-hour and the time approached 1 a.m. For the grand finale, White and company delivered a lights-out dose of “Seven Nation Army,” with the crowd chanting along to provide extra bass to the stadium-famous rhythm line. Just how well did it go over? Ten minutes after the set’s end, the main stage crowd could still be heard chanting the “Seven Nation Army” rhythm as it marched on across the festival grounds.
But it wasn’t all face-melting and rock star glory. Throughout the set, White gabbed to the crowd with equal doses of humility and eccentricity. He shouted out 1930s jazz musicians, Detroit auto workers, Nashville session musicians and homeless traveling musicians. He mentioned his mom several times and encouraged the crowd to appreciate their own. Noting the weekend’s other acts, he wished Nick Cave well and reminisced on how hearing the Arctic Monkeys’ “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” for the first time made him “feel so good about rock ’n roll.”
Still, White dished a little drama in the set’s requisite rock-star moment. "Who makes music happen? Does a tabloid like Rolling Stone make music happen?" he asked early on, just a few weeks after landing the RS cover. "You and I make it exist!" Following Kanye West’s rant the previous evening, Bonnaroo headliners have now put the music press on blast for two consecutive nights.