Jack White Offers a Nod to Eddie Van Halen in Crushing ‘SNL’ Set That Trades Wallen for Wailing
Jack White stood up for the canceled Morgan Wallen on Saturday Night Live and has been possibly the most popular musical prize hitter since Aretha Franklin stood for Pavarotti at the Grammys 22 years ago. His power trio double header set was quickly hailed on social media as one of the most electrifying rock and roll performances on the show in decades, and especially thanks to White who took the moment to pay homage to another guitar hero goodwill shown to Eddie Van Halen.
It could have been a coincidence that the show announced that White would step in for Wallen (who was ordered not to report to work after breaking COVID-19 distancing protocols) just days after Van Halen's death. Purposeful or provident, White offered a salute by first performing on a bespoke Eddie Van Halen guitar he had used in the past and then offering a quick EVH-style tap at the beginning of his solo on "Lazaretto" before moving back into his own branding style.
White had gone to Instagram earlier on Saturday to say he would be paying homage in his own way without reporting on Van Halen. "I thought it might be a nice touch for me to use this Eddie Van Halen blue model guitar for one of the songs on SNL tonight," he wrote. “The guitar was designed by Eddie (with some adjustments that I added). Eddie was very nice to me and made sure that this guitar was made for me according to my specifications. I'm not even going to offend the man's talent by trying to play one of his songs tonight. Thank you again Eddie for that guitar and rest in peace sir. “(White is white, of course, and he managed to find a shattered blue plaid suit to complement the color of the instrument.)
The guitar wasn't the only thing that was adjusted. So did the opening medley by White, which, in addition to three different songs, also contained some lyrics that were rewritten for the quarantine era.
"The great disease was powerful and people were sick everywhere / It was an epidemic and it was traveling through the air," White sang on his first appearance. "Just tell everyone in this place to get out and we'll be clean together." The performance started with an appetizer of "Don't Hurt Yourself" and then moved onto the lyrically updated "Ball and Biscuit" as the main course - with an interlude of the song "Blind Willie Johnson" to make it really a full meal.
Eddie Van Halen wasn't the only late musical hero who received a greeting in Weiß 'appearance. His longtime intermittent bassist Dominic John Davis wore a t-shirt with the word "PRINE" on it in honor of singer-songwriter John Prine, who would have celebrated his 74th birthday on Saturday night if he hadn't tragically been plunged into COVID-19 this spring. (Some casual viewers may have thought it was a Prince T-shirt until Davis ended up removing his guitar strap.)
The biggest burning question for some viewers: what was wrong with Daru Jones' drums, other than the fact that he could blow it up for minutes? The drums in Jones' kit were tilted away from him, although they were within his reach due to the height of his drum stool or his subsequent standing. A compelling image that made it seem like the veteran of White's bands was actually playing the drums in a backward-looking "tenet" universe.
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