White Lies – Nottingham Rock City, Wednesday November 25.
In the nine months since White Lies last played Rock City, sandwiched between Florence and the Machine, Friendly Fires and Glasvegas on the annual NME package tour, their live reputation has steadily grown. A successful summer festival season has won them many new fans, as last night’s capacity turnout demonstrated, and it was heartening to discover how much the band has gained in confidence and stage presence, in such a short space of time.
They’ve been compared with the likes of Editors and Interpol, and it was easy to see why: there’s a similar sense of bleak grandeur, and a shared tendency to pitch dark lyrical themes against rousing, anthemic melodies. The playing was clean, sharp and concise. Emotions were never overplayed; arrangements never sagged or dragged.
Although not a particularly demonstrative front man, Harry McVeigh displayed an intuitive grasp of stage craft, and an ability to connect with his audience without resorting to the usual bag of crowd-pleasing tricks. His eyes said it all: scanning the room, sensing the energy that was being returned to him, and lighting up with pleasure. This whole experience is clearly still new to him, and it was a delight to see him relishing it.
The 67 minute set was bookended by surefire crowd pleasers, opening with Farewell To The Fairground and closing with Death (a more uplifting track than its title might suggest). Material from the chart-topping album To Lose My Life was augmented with an older song (You Still Love Him) and a Talking Heads cover (Heaven). But if one song defined the night, perhaps it was the album’s title track, which took all the band’s key themes – love, fear, hope, faith, death – and placed them into a fist-pumping anthem of the first degree.