The Power & The Glory: White Lies Live

Published on February 2nd, 2011 in: Concert Reviews, Current Faves, Music |

By Less Lee Moore

The Mod Club, Toronto ON
January 29, 2010

white lies THUMB
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Rare is the band that I like immediately upon hearing them; rarer still is the one that can sustain that feeling in a live setting. White Lies have accomplished both.

Hugely popular in Britain, White Lies played just four dates in North America this time around—actually three, since their New York show at the Highline Ballroom was canceled at the last minute due to bad weather. Luckily, Toronto residents did not have to miss them at the Mod Club last weekend.

I confess to being late to White Lies fandom. Popshifter writer Jim R. Clark raved about their debut, To Lose My Life . . ., but it took the new album Ritual to get me on their bandwagon.

If you haven’t heard White Lies, then let me set the stage for you: three young men, playing undeniably addictive, instantly loveable electronic-based songs about love, sex, death, religion, and more. You might think they’d be some sort of quasi-Goth throwback, and while they do have a strong retro vibe (Heaven 17, Ultravox, Alphaville, and even Blancmange all come to mind), they still manage to sound fresh and exciting.

Singer Harry McVeigh has a marvelous, deep, throaty voice, which actually sounds better live because when he pushes it, he growls a bit, which gives the songs an added urgency. Although you might not realize it from the albums, Charles Cave’s bass playing and harmonies are the lifeblood that flows steadily through all the band’s songs, while drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown smashes the drums to attain that awesome ’80s pop vibe. White Lies are not a fluffy synth band; although they have towers of keyboards, the song construction is solid, frequently sustained by heavy blasts of feedback-y guitar (and of course, Cave’s excellent bass playing). (In fact, I am positive that the band would sound just as impressive in an acoustic setting; the songs are just that great.)

white lies mod club brava27
Photo credit: brava27

To complement their wall of sound, there were smoke machines and a pretty fantastic light show and if you think that sounds cheesy and forced, then you’d be wrong. White Lies have two auxiliary musicians on this tour: Tommy Bowen (keyboards) and Rob Lee (keyboards, guitars). The effect of all five men playing together is remarkable; I felt completely overwhelmed by what an incredible show this was. Though they weren’t attired in costumes or matching outfits, their clothes were all black, grey, and white, and along with the lighting, the smoke, and McVeigh’s stunning silver guitar, the effect was mesmerizing and a perfect accompaniment to the band’s music.

The set was a mixture of songs from To Lose My Life . . . and Ritual, split about 50/50 and alternating between the two releases to keep the crowd’s excitement sustained. McVeigh seemed thrilled to be there, thanking the crowd, flashing smiles, and encouraging us all to cheer and clap (which we did readily). Even the songs I was not familiar with sounded amazing and I found myself unable to stop dancing along, further testament to just how easy it is to like this band.

In this post-Electroclash, post-post-Darkwave, hipster-infested world of snark and cynicism, it’s difficult to fight the urge to distrust music that sounds good. Is it genuine? Is it a rip-off? Is it a flash in the pan? I can assure you that White Lies are genuinely wonderful and if they are ripping off someone, I can’t tell, and honestly, I don’t care. I sincerely hope they are not a flash in the pan because I look forward to hearing what more they have to offer us.

Check out our Q&A with White Lies in the January/February issue of Popshifter. For more on the band, visit their website.

Set List:
A Place To Hide
Holy Ghost
To Lose My Life
Peace & Quiet
Is Love
Bad Love
Farewell To The Fairground
Unfinished Business
The Power & The Glory
Bigger Than Us

One Response to “The Power & The Glory: White Lies Live”

  1. Popshifter » Best Of 2011: Less Lee Moore:
    December 31st, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    […] White Lies at The Mod Club, January 9: I’d only just heard this band’s second album when I saw this show, so I was amazed at what a powerful experience it was. Ritual is definitely my second favorite new release of this year, deftly weaving cues from the best new wave bands of the ’80s with an undeniably fresh, modern sound. (Read my show review here.) […]

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