31 March 2009

White Lies and Friendly Fires (Live)

(Slowdive Music’s review.)

27 March 2009, my most anticipated concert of the year to date. Though not making many waves on this side of the Great Pond, both White Lies and Friendly Fires are part of the hype machine in the UK. Nothing alike, one being post-punk revival and the other experimental pop, both bands briefly toured a few dates together throughout the US, culminating at the Bowery Ballroom. And if these both bands represent what is happening in the London music scene, well we might want to consider booking a flight and checking out what is going on.

The show opener was Soft Pack, from San Diego, formerly known as the Muslims. Let me admit ignorance on this band, but after seeing their tight performance (flawless would actually be the word for the night), I am definitely inspired to look into them.

Keep up with Soft Pack at their MySpace home.

Then Friendly Fires came on stage. The energy was amazing! Think of David Gahan’s (of Depeceh Mode) effect on a crowd: everyone was on their feet, dancing, bouncing, and having the time of their lives. What I found most interesting was how well they were able to deliver their sound live. Sure, it is easy to throw on the sequencer and backing tracks – a limitless number of bands do this. But to use sequenced material and still deliver the raw power of a live performance is no easy task. My personal highlight was “On Board.” From it’s slower tempo beginning to the savvy synthpop guitar interplay of the music at the end, this song demonstrates Friendly Fires at their best – unique arrangements, high energy, and a song that has a life beyond the recorded version.

That’s the thing with many bands these days – they compose music that is either great live or recorded, but rarely both. And to be honest, that was my fear anticipating Friendly Fires: their live performance would fall extremely short of their recorded album. How wrong it was for me to entertain those fears. Like any great band, the music performed live was not a carbon copy of their recorded versions, but rather brought forth a new dimension. I have not been more surprised by a live band in years!

Set List:
1. Lovesick
2. Jump in the Pool
3. Skeleton Boy
4. In the Hospital
5. White Diamonds
6. Strobe
7. On Board
8. Paris
9. Ex Lover

Keep up with Friendly Fires at their homepage and MySpace.

Check out these video clips of them live.

"Skeleton Boy"


"On Board"

Then White Lies took the stage. To their credit, lead singer Harry McVeigh was suffering from a slight cold, but the show had to go on, and go on it did. White Lies delivered one of the most spot on performances I have ever witnessed. Harry reminded me of a really young Robert Smith; his posturing was not one of shyness, but rather one for dramatic effect – standing still, using his fingers to mime out parts of songs occasionally. The band seemed transported somewhere in the back of their minds while performing, lost in the genesis of their music.

Color lights? No. All white lights, accenting their post-punk influenced sound. They kicked off their set with “Farewell to the Fairground” and ended with “Death” – they cruised through a nine song set with the ease and poise of veterans. My highlight of the set was “From the Stars” – easily one of my favorite tracks of the year. With a fourth member on stage, the strings were pulled off with amazing well live, while the building drama of the song was mirrored in the playing of the other band members and voice of McVeigh. And, yes, though towards the end there was a definite difference in the quality of his voice, he managed to hit every note and suspend any discomfort on the stage while singing. This was in itself impressive. Definitely another band you have to see live, especially if you get to see them in the intimacy of a venue like the Bowery Ballroom.

Set list:
1. Farewell to the Fairground
2. To Lose My Life
3. E.S.T.
4. From the Stars
5. Place to Hide
6. Unfinished Business
7. Fifty on Our Foreheads
8. Price of Love
9. Death

Keep up with White Lies at their homepage and MySpace.

Check out these video clips of them live.

"To Lose My Life"

"From the Stars"