Morgan Wallen was originally announced as the musical guest for Saturday Night Live’s second episode of Season 46. The up and coming Country music star, who got his start on NBC’s The Voice, with one studio album to his credit, could have received a major boost from his stint on SNL, but it didn’t happen. A week before he was to appear on SNL, he posted videos to his social media accounts of him partying after an Alabama game. He was mask-less and kissing college-aged women. Roll Tide! Normally, not a problem, but in the COVID-19 era, with social distancing a near requirement in everything we do, this was a bad idea. In response to the social media blasts, SNL pulled Wallen’s invitation and cancelled his appearance for violating the show’s protocols. Wallen posted a heartfelt apology.
In steps Jack White, of the White Stripes and solo artist fame, to save the musical sets for SNL on Saturday. In my opinion, White is one of the most underrated musicians, performers, artists of our time, and his set on Saturday just strengthened that belief.
Set number one was a medley starting with “Don’t Hurt Yourself” which White co-wrote and was featured in with Beyonce. While staying true to the original song, White sets this version apart by making it a grittier and bluesier version of this already soulful song. Next up was the White Stripes’ “Ball and Biscuit” with a twist. While not with his original backup, White nails this performance with his supporting cast including Bassist, Dominic John Davis, and Drummer, Daru Jones. The twist comes when White included lyrics from Blind Willie Johnson’s “Jesus Is Coming Soon.” Blind Willie Johnson was a Blues master/legend. His style tended more towards the Gospel Blues and included the hit, “John the Revelator,” made famous by Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers and featured heavily in the show, “Sons of Anarchy.” White ends his performance with what he’s known for best, wailing on his guitar with some amazing blues/rock riffs.
Set number two was a blistering performance of “Lazaretto” off the same titled solo album. While the studio version includes a funkier, deeper groove, backed by multiple synthesizers and a fiddle, the SNL version was a great compliment to his first set and was broken down to just his trio with no backing tracks. White shows off his chops as a guitarist, singer and song writer in this brilliant piece. White even found time to pay tribute to a musical legend, Eddie Van Halen, who died just four days before, from throat cancer. White not only played his second set using an EVH designed guitar, he also paid homage to the legend with a classic EVH finger-tapped guitar solo.
As a former drummer, I would be remiss in failing to point out an interesting little bit from Saturday’s performance. Drummer Daru Jones’ minimalist set included a snare and two tom drums that were turned away from him. I’ve never seen this before and, at times, Jones would stand up to play. Interesting set up to say the least.
Jack White’s performance on Saturday, not only saved SNL from a potentially embarrassing lack of a musical guest, it will go down as one of the best musical performances in SNL’s 46 year history.