Live Review

The Whigs, Sheffield Arena

A musically tight performance, full of character and fan-friendly tunes.

The Whigs make music that’s the perfect fit for 90s College Radio, but this does not do justice to the personality and tight musicianship of their live performance. DIY grows its hair and braves the Sheffield cold for a night of Southern Comfort straight and a sickass slice of Americana pie.

While touring with Kings of Leon may cost you dearly in Pitchfork decimal points, it offers exactly the kind of exposure that any hardworking indie band would kill for (though maybe not direct toilet access if our A-grade journalist buds at The Sun are to be trusted). And boy did The Whigs jump at this opportunity. Quite literally.

Kicking off the set with the teenage angst-filled ‘Already Young’, lead singer and guitarist Parker Gispert launches The Whig offensive by unleashing some crowd-pleasing scissor kicks that become the trademark of his performance. He leaps around the floor on one leg, kind of like Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, but with an electric guitar as his much cooler weapon of choice. The guy clearly enjoys his day job. Or else has some form of leg tourettes. Either way, he has our attention.

He thrashes out in rhythm, his hair tossing up and down, before he and the bassist Tim Deaux move in on hell-fire drummer Julian Dorio for an explosive end to what is only their first song. If the plasma screen had said, lay down your arms and surrender to your support band: mission accomplished… with 30 more minutes to fill.

The band continue to entertain the crowd with tracks like ‘Right Hand On My Heart’ and the Nirvana-esque roar of ‘Like A Vibration’. In between, Gispert chats a bit to the audience (Caleb Followill get your pen and pad out) about how ‘You guys are a great Sunday night crowd’ and proclaims ‘Where we’re from, you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays’. He even signposts us to the city’s Plug venue where they’ll play a more ‘intimate’ set in February before ditching his guitar for the keyboard-laden ‘Half The World Away’. It’s definitely more Doors than Dave Matthews and a hypnotic intermission to a largely rock initiative.

The band’s final coup hits hard with the bass heavy ‘Dying’ and ‘Need You Need You’, with Deaux pulling in the punters for a huge clapping refrain and Dorio’s drum attack pumping them up for the arrival of the guns from Sow-outh. It’s no wonder The Whigs were handpicked by Kings of Leon for this tour - what the Followills’ current setlist lacks in fist-punching energy is found in spades here. This was a musically tight performance, full of character and fan-friendly tunes with a hard-edged finish.

If college rock could fill arenas, these guys would be the Kings. Bring on February.

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