White Lies | Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen | 24 July 2013
The last time White Lies played London, they sold out Wembley Arena. Now, just 18 months later, the trio are performing to 300 people in a bar. But this downsizing isn’t due to a Glasvegas-style career collapse – for the launch of their third album, the band have gone back to where it all began five years ago.
And, judging from the new songs showcased tonight, returning to the site of their first gig is more than just a PR stunt: after the over-polished sheen of 2010’s radio-baiting ‘Ritual’, ‘Big TV’ sounds like a concerted back to basics record.
Galloping lead single ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ blends a haunting melody with comfortingly bleak lyrics. ‘Getting Even’ mashes up retro ‘80s synths, driving guitars, and a giant hand-waving chorus. The atmospheric title track initially slows the pace, allowing Harry McVeigh to show off a refined croon, before wave after wave of power chords push the emotions higher and higher.
But it’s ‘First Time Caller’, built around a beautifully simple keyboard motif, that stands out. Showcasing a newfound elegance, it’s nonetheless powerful enough to hold its own against the familiar anthems that also get an airing tonight. All delivered with the urgency that comes from playing on a stage so small there’s no room to move, let alone hide, ‘Farewell To The Fairground’ is drenched in despair, ‘Death’ sounds more like Joy Division than ever before, and an anguished rendition of ‘Bigger Than Us’ exposes the song’s dark heart.
With no smoke machines, video screens, or even backdrop, this intimate setting suits a band who are clearly excited to be out of the recording studio and reconnecting with their fans. That excitement bodes well for ‘Big TV’ and the inevitable return to Wembley.