Attitude isn’t always a bad thing. A few songs into his one hour, forty-five minute set on the Coachella main stage, Jack White snarled at the crowd, “Clap your hands and put your fucking cell phones down for five seconds.” At one point, White asked, “You feel good, Coachella?” — and when he didn’t get the immediate roar of approval expected, he insisted, “You feel good now?” White wasn’t asking a question — he was making a command. And it worked, as the crowd took White’s bait and grew into a sprawled-out frenzy.
White is one of indie music’s most revered figures, a musician who would certainly go into a Coachella hall of fame inaugural class alongside the likes of Beck, Radiohead and Daft Punk. As a result, he could have walked out on Saturday night, waved to the crowd and taken his victory lap. Instead he did just the opposite, attacking the audience with drums that sounded like an explosion on songs like opening 10-minute version of the White Stripes’ “Icky Thump.” Perhaps the Weeknd closing out the main stage instead of the rocker gave White a chip on his shoulder, or maybe he just connects best with the Indio desert; whatever the reason, White was fired up on Saturday night compared to his many other festival gigs over the past two years.
“I hope you realize for a few seconds every day that music is sacred,” White intoned before finishing the set. He then repeated “That music is sacred!” three more times, as if the first couple weren’t convincing enough. White’s music didn’t need to be repeated to be heard: the set was one of the loudest of the weekend, with his guitar riffs echoing from hundreds of feet away (White’s set drowned out a good amount of FKA Twigs’ show when standing in the back of her audience).
The crowd fed off of White’s energy, but they certainly didn’t need much encouragement. Even if they weren’t going to put their phones down, the fevered masses went predictably ballistic at trademarks songs like “Hotel Yorba,” “Steady As She Goes” and the night’s closer, “Seven Nation Army.” Impressively, the crowd was almost as impassioned when White led his group in the country-esque “Temporary Ground,” and when he covered Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”
White, of course, can play country, blues, folk and rockabilly, sometimes even in one song. The variety and mix of American music White bridges together was as impressive on Saturday night as it is every time he plays at this point. Underneath the technical skill lies an intense appreciation of old fashioned rock and roll, delivered with an aggression and precision few others can match.