Live Review

White Lies, Sala Apolo, Barcelona

The perfect setting for the dark, melancholic musings White Lies specialise in.

There’s a certain laid-back attitude on the Iberian Peninsula which means things happen more slowly, and this applies equally to the adoption of bands and musical trends. Whilst the breakneck speed of turnover in the fickle world of the what’s-hot-and-what’s-not UK music scene now leads to the backlash arriving before a debut album drops – see The Vaccines and Florence & The Machine – over here things only start to warm up around LP number two. Hence tonight’s packed, sold out show for the great and good of Barcelona hipsterdom, with even the touts doing brisk business. Now, say what you like about White Lies’ take on anthemic doom rock – and the reaction to their sophomore effort has been, ahem, lukewarm at best – but they’re not exactly flavour of the month, which makes it all the stranger that this has been one of the hottest tickets in town.

Still, nothing like admiration to bring out the best in people, and the faded ballroom splendour of Sala Apolo, walls a deep blood red, is the perfect setting for the dark, melancholic musings they specialise in. Opener ‘A Place To Hide’ confirms this, with Harry McVeigh’s booming voice and Charles Cave’s driving bass to the fore. Ditto the pounding drums of ‘To Lose My Life’, whose chorus sounds particularly epic live, despite McVeigh’s incantations about growing old and dying at the same time. Sandwiched between these two was ‘Holy Ghost’ from new album ‘Ritual’, but next to them, it came over as a bit, well, anaemic. It was the same with ‘Strangers’, with ‘Is Love’ which followed ‘E.S.T’, and ‘Peace & Quiet’ which came after ‘Farewell To The Fairground’. It’s not that the new material is bad per se, but it lacks the drive, bounce, and more importantly, the hooks of their debut, to the point where the songs start to blend into each other, instantly forgettable, like some sort of indie-gloom medley of despair and pain.

The underwhelming nature of their new songs was a shame, as ably supported by Tommy Boden and Rob Lee, their best stuff has an expansiveness live which was impressively powerful – witness the mass sing-alongs to ‘Death’ and ‘Unfinished Business’, the former amply showing their abilities with a catchy beat and a huge chorus, along with nicely playing around with the rhythm and tempo. You can imagine moments like that going down a treat if they ever got to headline a festival. Their stage set up was similarly impressive, containing banks of LED’s and some strobe lights, the sort of backdrop that announces ‘We’ve arrived’ - it’s just a pity that more of their music wasn’t similarly turbocharged. Maybe they were in a hurry. Maybe they’ve run out of ideas. Maybe they were tired with all the same, clichéd comparisons being made between them and you-know-who, and deliberately did something different. Either way, they need to discover more of the magic that made them such a hotly tipped act in the first place.

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