Standing in the middle of Rock City last night, the first thing that hit me about White Lies was that their fan-base was tall. Incredibly tall. Following an electric performance by the enthusiastic support act Ramona Flowers (which suffered only from a crowd-wide lack of knowledge of their lyrics), I found myself boxed into a square of die-hard supporters who were probably halfway there to lapping me on height. If I held my head at just the right angle, however, I could see beyond a pathway of facial hair and beer cups to the spot where Harry McVeigh was soon to take centre stage, much to the approval of their excited (and, I think it’s fair to say, absolutely smashed) audience. Holding my head at this neck-breaking angle, I prided myself on this small achievement and waited for the band to appear.
Walking on stage with less of a swagger and more of a dawdle, McVeigh introduced his first song (“Take It Out on Me”) quietly before letting rip with his huge, death-rumble of a voice and bringing the crowd to life. Taking care to focus on crowd-pleasers such as “Farewell to the Fairground” and “The Price of Love” just as much as hits from their new album “Friends”, it felt like there wasn’t a single person in the room who didn’t know all of the words to at least one of their songs. This was a band that inspired heartfelt, word-by-word sing-a-longs, and even if we couldn’t all hold the notes that McVeigh managed during “Come on” and “Bigger than us”, my general feeling at the end of the night was that I couldn’t decide whether the whole experience had felt more like scream therapy or karaoke (or, indeed, an eclectic mix of the two).
Comparisons to karaoke are not to cheapen the performance of the band, however; in particular Charles Caver gave a stunning performance on bass, setting the perfect tone for some of the band’s older and more death-centric songs from their first album “To Lose my Life”. Music from their latest album “Friends” has lifted away from the morbid fan-favourite tones of their earliest work to instead give moody, dark-edged tracks with a focus on crumbling relationships. Over the course of their career this change in topic is indicative of their maturing voices as a band, and though the older hits definitely brought on a more deafening cheer than the new, lesser-known ones, it’s probably safe to say that White Lies are a band to watch in terms of new and progressive indie-rock music in the upcoming years.
My overall opinion? Definitely worth an elbow or two to the face (and yet possibly best enjoyed with stilts).