Not all heroes wear capes; some rock out on guitar. After this weekend’s original musical guest, country singer Morgan Wallen, violated COVID-19 safety protocol, Saturday Night Live found itself in need of a last-minute replacement. Jack White answered the call.
Accompanied by drummer Daru Jones and bassist Dominic John Davis, White ripped through some of his greatest hits with a few unexpected twists. For his first performance of the evening, White played a bit of his Beyoncé collaboration, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, before transitioning into “Ball and Biscuit”. The Elephant track was reworked to feature lyrics from “Jesus is Coming Soon”, a traditional gospel song about the 1918 Spanish Flu that was famously performed by Blind Willie Johnson.
The lyrics are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago: “The noble said to the people/close your public schools/ until death passes you by you better close all your churches too/ I’m done talkin/ Yes I’m walkin’/ God is coming soon,” White sang. “The great disease was mighty and people were sick everywhere/ It was an epidemic and it traveled through the air.”
The three-piece then returned to the stage to play “Lazaretto”, the title track to White’s sophomore solo album. The performance was especially notable for White’s choice of instrument: “i thought it could be a nice gesture for me to use this blue eddie van halen model guitar for one of the songs tonight on SNL,” White wrote in an Instagram post prior to tonight’s episode. “the guitar was designed by eddie (with a few customizations i had added). eddie was very kind to me and saw to it that this guitar was made for me to my specs. i wont even insult the man’s talent by trying to play one of his songs tonight. thanks again eddie for this guitar and rest in peace sir.” And in a further nod to Van Halen, White briefly played a finger-tapping solo on the guitar.
Replay both performances below.