Monday, 9 December 2013

898 WHITE LIES, Frankie Rose, Bristol O2 Academy, Sunday 8 December 2013

Down to Brizzle on an appropriately evocative dark and clear Sunday night, to see young London band White Lies, the young London trio whose debut “To Lose My Life” had really captured my imagination with some strident, dark and gothy post-punk rock which landed squarely in my Bunnymen-sound wheelhouse, but whom since then had released a couple of follow-ups including this year’s “Big TV”, becoming shinier, synthier and more commercial sounding with each release whilst still retaining an 80’s feel and throwing in the odd devastating tune in the process. Moving away from a Joy Division sound to a darker (dare I say it) Tears For Fears, perhaps? Still, they were good value “live” last time out, albeit a little hesitatingly, so let’s go!

I managed to persuade Rach to join me this time, having gotten into trouble for booking a ticket on my own last time out, only this time to discover she, like myself, wasn’t as keen on their newer material... Still, off we went, parking up in an oddly deserted Trenchard Street car park and hitting the relatively quiet venue at 7.30 (no sell-out, this, unlike last time out), waiting half an hour for support, NYC’s Frankie Rose, on at 8. Backed up by a 4-piece band including a female guitarist who looked like her daughter (!), Frankie played some edgy, fast-paced and occasionally jangly pop, with smooth female harmonies recalling Fuzzy or early Lush, and a taut beat evoking early Cure (exemplified by Frankies Robert Smith t-shirt). A few good tracks there, although one of the less good numbers sounded uncomfortably like an 80’s John Hughes film soundtrack number! Unoriginal, but a diverting start.

So with half an hour between sets, the roadies decided to choke us with quite the largest outpouring of dry ice I’d been subjected to for ages, excessive even by Bunnymen standards! We took a good viewing spot on the lip of the floor, stage left, but were concerned we might not see anything through the fog! Finally White Lies took the stage promptly at 9, kicking into sombre gloom-fest opener “To Lose My Life”, and the place, which had filled up rapidly between sets, went utterly nuts. “There Goes Our Love”, the excellent galloping best number from their current CD, followed in short order, a huge and brilliant lighting rig throwing a blood red pall across the stage, contrasting with the green backlit laser show. Stunning, yet complementary to the sound. The Bunnyesque open space of “A Place To Hide” followed, young bearded vocalist Harry McVeigh’s pleading vocals propelling the immense chorus around the venue, the startlingly engaged and devoted crowd echoing back every word. This was seriously good, atmospheric stuff for openers!

Inevitably, things sagged a little  for me mid-set, although the Ultravox-lite “Street Lights” and a potent, seething  “EST” were mid-set highlights. Harry then introduced a, “special song, the first song we wrote as White Lies and the reason we’re here today,” the melancholy, brooding “Unfinished Business”, which built to a soaring, yearning chorus line. I could have done without the cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, Prince never one of my favourite artistes, but the set then finished strongly with a lovely, melodic “First Time Caller”, then a perfectly judged rendition of their best number, “Death”. I was concerned last time out that this one was carried by the audience – not so tonight, as the hook line “this fear’s got a hold of me” was deliberately slowed for added mood and menace, before being released like a cork from a bottle, sending the whole floor into a dervish frenzy.

The Visage-like synth refrain of “Big TV” kicked off the encore, with Harry praising this unusually enthusiastic Bristol crowd (“so good so see a crowd move as much as you!”) before closer “Bigger Than Us”, the robotic beat plunging into the immense, soaring and roaring chorus. This was a perfect end to a set which, despite some mid-set quality drops, was easily the best I’ve seen this nicely maturing young band play. The rose above their occasionally patchy material tonight and delivered a splendid evening of dark, anthemic rock. Well done boys!

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