Sunday, 26 February 2017

1,024 WHITE LIES, Alex Cameron, Oxford O2 Academy, Saturday 25th February 2017

White Lies again, so soon after last time out (1st December in Bristol, gig 1,013)? Well, following that December UK tour (gig 1,013 again!) in support of their 4th and best-since-first album, the excellent “Friends”, the London doomy post-punk turned increasingly 80’s ear-friendly and synth-fuelled hookily anthemic trio announced a slew of further dates for this month, targeting previously overlooked towns, and I saw this Oxford Saturday gig as a perfect chance to not only enjoy them “live” again for myself, but to also further the introduction to gigs of my 9 year old son Logan. I played him some stuff which he enjoyed, so he was up for this, laudably doing his homework, with repeated listens to a White Lies comp CD I made him!

An early one, this, so we headed off promptly in dampening drizzle, finding the usual Tescos carpark utterly rammed, with cars waiting, but lucking into a spot on Cowley Road just as another car was pulling out! Hit the venue for 7 and wandered down the front, asking the small assemblage whether there was a chance for Logan to squeeze through. Got some attitude, sadly, from a middle-aged blonde woman, who haughtily clipped back, “you should have gotten here earlier!” as if she, of course, owned the place. So you’d be prepared to block the view of a 9 year old – way to set an example to your own teenage son, you selfish bitch! Happily, a group of young punters manufactured a Logan-sized spot on the barriers stage left, sufficiently far away from “little miss entitled” to enjoy the gig! Chatted with them before and after support Alex Cameron, a fey, angular gent backed up with a saxophonist and electronic drummer (the kit being electronic, not the man!), who played some understated pop which at best recalled the smooth US rock radio friendly anthemic nature of The Killers (Cameron’s vocals also bearing some similarities to Brandon Flowers), and otherwise resembled 80’s AOR – Hall and Oates, maybe?! Before finishing with their best number, “Marlon Brando”, the loose-limbed Cameron asked for accommodation recommendations, citing poverty and his saxophonist’s bad back and ankles! T’uh, that’s life on the road for you…!

Chatted with another, friendlier blonde lady who gushed about Logan (“he’s 9? My kids are 11 and 12 and sing along to all the White Lies songs – and I’ve left them at home… Oh, I’m such a terrible mum…!”), before the lights dimmed prompt at 8.30, and White Lies emerged in short order onto a smoke-swirled stage. No messing about tonight, as the staccato synth pulse of “Take It Out On Me” kicked into strident gear, followed with an immense “There Goes Our Love Again”, the crowd – including Logan and myself – singing along to the infectiously catchy repetitive hook and soaring chorus. Therein lies White Lies appeal – even their doomier, more introspective and morose numbers (viz. the subsequent “To Lose My Life”, Logan’s favourite number) feature often multiple brain-hugging, skyscraping hooks which just beg to be sung back, wide-eyed and open-armed, by an enthusiastic audience. And such was the case tonight!

Again, the set drew largely from that pseudo-gothy post-punk debut and the more Tears For Fears synth-driven pop material of “Friends”; “The Price Of Love” eased in, all blood-red backlit and doomy gothic drama, before bursting into a soaring denouement, with vocalist Harry McVeigh straining to give it his all; “Farewell To The Fairground” was excellent, despite bassist Charles accusing Harry of, “the worst bum note I’ve ever heard!”; the Kraftwerkian sheet synth of “Is My Love Enough” was startling; and an excellent “Unfinished Business” was mournful and elegiac, before again kicking into soaring life, Harry again working hard to reach the high notes. As per Bristol, Harry again thanked the crowd for their loyalty over the 3 year gap before “Friends”, before “Death” provided a perfect set climax, the band again reining in the hook to a slow, sinister death march, before unleashing the hook for the crowd to go crazy to. Logan included – he’d been “energy efficient”, sitting down and chilling during some slower numbers, but saved some in the tank for both this one and final encore “Bigger Than Us”, the skyscraping chorus resonating off the low ceiling and proving a perfect punctuation to a huge, clear sounding and perfectly delivered set.

Set list as well for Logan, and we then gathered our thoughts and headed off home, Logan tired but buzzing all the way home for a reasonable 11 pm arrival. He loved it and was immaculate all night, so hopefully this will be another important step on his gig introduction, thanks to this immense White Lies performance!

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