Winter is taking ages
This talking never helped the pain when the wave hits
Darling, I can’t explain it
This city hits a low when it’s raining.
– Don’t Want To Feel It All
As White Lies walked onto the stage of the Troxy, I felt a familiar nervousness in my stomach. Touring for their fourth album, Friends, they had reinvented their sound yet again – would they retain the energy that had always made them so entertaining to see live? My initial apprehension quickly vanished, however, as band settled into the distinctive rhythm of Take It Out On Me, a recent release that provides a fresh take on the classic sound of the early albums.
White Lies’ sound is complex and resists straightforward explanation. It is at once dark, intense, serious…and yet euphoric and uplifting. Shunning virtuoso guitar solos, they build up intricate layers of textured sound that keep growing throughout a song, to be released in a climactic final chorus. Harry McVeigh’s haunting voice soars over the top, a singer who achieves the rare feat of combining emotional power with technical excellence. He sings about misunderstanding, loss, romance gone wrong – but his words are full of a bittersweet resignation that come across as more reflective than anguished. The band has always made heavy use of minor chords to suit the sombre lyrics, but with Friends, they have taken a further step away from the ‘indie’ sound of their first album and towards a more ‘alternative’ vibe. Crashing guitar chords in the choruses have been replaced with wistful synths as their style mellows with age. Nevertheless, the unapologetically melancholic lyrics and the emotionally intensity they have retained makes for music that remains totally immersive.
As performers, White Lies are serious and professional, rather than showy, and they let the music do most of the talking. Well suited for festivals and large crowds, the raw power of their shows makes them highly engaging for newcomers and veterans alike. On this night, old fans were spoiled rotten as the band made judicious selection from their magnificent back catalogue as well as their most recent album. I even had the pleasure of hearing Unfinished Business, a classic from the first album that I had never heard live before! But overall, we were treated to a Best Of, crowd-pleasing set, including festival favourites ‘To Lose My Life, ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ and ‘Bigger Than Us’. I must say that despite my nostalgia for these blasts from the past, some of my favourite moments of the night were singing along to two of their new tracks, ‘Hold Back Your Love’ and ‘Don’t Want to Feel It All’. They really have pulled off the unlikely feat of changing style whilst retaining the essence of what thrust them into the limelight in the first place.
As I belted out track after track, arms around my oldest friends, memories flooded back to me of an earlier time – of moments of my life that I will always look back fondly on. Being able to enjoy the music with my brother Rob, the man who originally showed me White Lies back in the day, made it all the more unforgettable an occasion. I left the gig like the music I’d just heard – sad, but in a good way.