1st February | SWX
On their fifth album, White Lies are beginning to shake the gothic pop origins reminiscient of Joy Division on steroids and are embracing a new joy that fans haven’t previously been used to. Released on the day of their Bristol show, FIVE sheds the doomsday drums and ominous synths that was associated with their earlier work and throw the curtains open, bringing in new light. On record it sounds promising, but the delivery on stage will be the more difficult transition.
While they are so used to wallowing to epic proportions with hits like ‘To Lose My Life’ and ‘Death’, White Lies were incredibly upbeat. ‘Time To Give’ launched the show with frontman Harry McVeigh’s signature operatic vocal reaching the very back of the venue, with a long cinematic outro that sounded fit for a hit sci-fi movie. The London fivesome have a penchant for these types of flourishes in their songs as they delve further into their career.
‘Farewell To The Fairground’ revisited the early darkness that shot them to success, but newer songs like ‘Believe It’ build upon their effortless spin on 80s new wave, and unlocked the happier side of the band. Their most gleeful moment came in the form of the adrenaline-charged heartbreak anthem ‘There Goes Our Love Again’, which lurched the audience back and forth into full singalong.
The majority of the tracks from FIVE landed smoothly into the set despite their live debuts. ‘Finish Line’ encouraged claps and whoops, showing a keen fanbase had already jumped into the latest record pretty quickly. ‘Tokyo’ upped the ante, and proved to be the most well-received new single of the night. The infectious rush of synths swept the crowd along, with it leaving a lasting positive impression.
Standout from fourth album, FRIENDS, ‘Don’t Want To Feel It All’ is perhaps the best mix of the old and new. The chorus soared to the heights of The Killers in their poppy skin. Repeating ‘I’m not gonna break your heart’ over a funky synth line, you almost believed it. Yet you recognise the divide between FIVE and the previous albums isn’t a bad difference, but a noticably progressive one that fitted across the whole concert perfectly.
The jagged bassline of ‘Big TV’ won over a receptive public towards the end of the show. The promise of ‘a room downtown with a bed and a big TV’ from McVeigh drove the masses wild. The encore sounded off nicely with the thunderous ‘To Lose My Life’ and third album cut ‘Change’ exclaiming, “I’ve never been too good at change.”
The truth is that White Lies have never been afraid of change, even if it has been a gradual one. Tonight was a real test to see how far they could push the boundaries of their new sound. The 2019 incarnation of the gloomy group is happier, funkier and they seem to relish playing more, probably due to the beers waving in the air and hands flailing madly in the packed out club.
They have become brazen mavericks, a band left over from an era where many have broken apart. While old legends that brought a different kind of buzz in the 00s like Klaxons, The Maccabees and Crystal Castles have fallen, White Lies are survivors.