White Lies began a very welcome return to the United States with date in DC at 9:30 Club on Wednesday, launching a brief US tour in support of their fourth album Friends, published last fall by BMG.
A strong crowd filled 9:30 Club to see the four Londoners, who started their set with “Take It Out on Me” from the new album, setting the tone for a very uplifting evening of forward-thinking new wave tunes. “Take It Out on Me” is an excellent entry into the canon of White Lies, a band who generally explore the search for a better tomorrow, and so the invitation to unload to a sympathetic friend is very much in keeping with the ethos of the band.
Lead singer Harry McVeigh hit the right notes from the beginning, his deep voice and knack for poetry certainly calling for parallels to the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division. But Harry’s own presence are truly defined by his humble demeanor and direct earnestness, a persona that matches his lyrical message.
Harry’s pleasant aura is shared and extended by his bandmates — bassist Charles Cave, who also is a stand-up guy, and drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown, who works hard to set and keep the pace for his fellows. As usual, the band on this tour are not complete without touring member Tommy Bowen on keyboards, supplying some bright synthlines that could make the most joyless soul break down and dance.
White Lies spend the next 80 minutes serving up great new wave numbers that also constitute a body of work with undeniable substance. They next play the catchy “There Goes Our Love Again,” perhaps my favorite selection from their great third album, Big TV.
To everyone’s surprise, White Lies also dedicate a good deal of their set to their very first album, 2009’s To Lose My Life. They hit the title track of that album (perhaps their still most widely recognized single with its refrain of “let’s grow old together… and die at the same time!”)… and soon they perform “The Price of Love,” a foreboding track of love and loss. Harry explained the band had not played the song much since touring to support their first album, but they brought it back to the show recently. Its return won significant applause from our 9:30 crowd, who clearly approved.
The gents follow that with “Farewell to the Fairground,” another first-album gem that deals with moving away to find new ground. This in turn is followed quite cleverly by “Morning in LA,” another song dealing with the similar themes as Harry sings of trying to connect with friends. The uplifting melody of the song and the emphasis on the “morning” on the title paints quite a hopeful picture.
If that weren’t already enough of the debut album, White Lies close their set with “Death,” the final single from that release. While poignant, the melancholy tune about the fear of death may seem a departure from the usual brightness of the White Lies catalog. Interestingly, the band focus on the joy of life that makes the thought of death unbearable, so there is consistency to be found in their outlook.
The encore smartly consists of four songs, one from each of White Lies’ albums, starting with the instantly recognizable “Big TV” from album three. White Lies surprise again with “E.S.T.” from their debut album, wrapping a big sound around their analogy of “electric shock therapy.” Again, hope is the message of the day as the narrator searches for meaning beyond his circumstances
White Lies continue their tour tonight, Feb. 6, in Chicago and press on through Feb. 15, when they wrap their US tour in Los Angeles. Harry spoke to the 9:30 Club audience before the encore to give his heartfelt thanks for our patronage. But a White Lies show is its own reward due to the talents of the quartet searching for meaning beyond their current circumstances and renewal in a new day. You’ll do well to join their search on this tour.
Here are some pictures of White Lies performing at 9:30 Club on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.