Live Review: White Lies with Sun Airway and Asobi Seksu at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 20th May 2011

By on Tuesday, 24th May 2011 at 2:00 pm

I owe White Lies a massive, massive apology. I just wasn’t feeling ‘Ritual’ at all when I reviewed in January. However, I can now vouch that these songs sound absolutely amazing live, and the band deliver them with such intensity that afterwards I felt like I was charged up with thousands of watts of energy. They were that good. First up though were Philadelphia’s Sun Airway; I just wasn’t feeling them. The first song they played had a programmed drum track, but they have a drummer with a drum kit onstage. Odd. Their singer Jon Barthmus told Pitchfork that his wife said they sounded like Animal Collective (check out their song ‘American West’). Maybe the masses would think they do, but their performance this night will probably be remembered for the equipment snafus that broke up their set (drum hook-up issue, and a problem with queueing up a video from someone’s iPod).

Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna, plus touring bandmates Billy Pavon and Larry Gorman, New York’s Asobi Seksu (Friendly Fire Recordings labelmates to the Phenomenal Handclap Band and Violens, were next. I sound vaguely like the xx or Bat for Lashes, but much harder instrumentally (for more, watch the video for ‘Trails’ below). Chikudate’s voice is not only unique because it runs the gamut from twee to hard rocking, but also because she’s Japanese and sings some lyrics in her native tongue. I think I can speak for all music-loving Oriental girls that we want her job: playing a synth; singing her heart out; and swinging her head to and fro, hair flying. Understandably, most of Asobi Seksu’s set list came from their new album released in February, ‘Fluorescence’, but also included ‘Thursday’ an earlier song of theirs that has soundtracked Skins and American show The L Word.


So, I went into this show thinking the old White Lies big hits that the indie kids dance to – ‘To Lose My Life’, ‘Death’, ‘Unfinished Business’, ‘Farewell to the Fairground – would stick out strangely in the set among the very dark songs from ‘Ritual’. I was dead wrong. This is a band that knows how to play with their fans’ heartstrings and get them to dance, jump and throw their fists up in the air. I first saw White Lies 2 years ago on an “NME Presents” tour of North America, shortly after ‘To Lose Your Life…’ had gone to #1; they were co-headlining with Friendly Fires. Even though I liked both bands, Friendly Fires better commanded the audience. At the time, I think White Lies didn’t have the confidence the St. Albans boys did. But forget that, because it’s plain to see from the audience reaction that White Lies have come into their own with this new album. And it’s wonderful to see this transformation.

I still think the words of ‘Holy Ghost’ are creepy. However, I can overlook this by how powerful this song is live: McVeigh’s emotionally charged vocals, Cave’s peerless bass playing (the effortless way he played nearly made this amateur player keel over in incredulity) and Jack Lawrence-Brown’s unflagging drumming skills make it. ‘The Power and the Glory’, a song I initially did not like on record but a favourite of many fans and even Steve Lamacq, won me over.

The show ended somewhat predictably with ‘Bigger Than Us’, their greeting to the world last autumn after being absent for so long. But you can’t fault the band on this or any other song this night: every instrument, vocal and detail was on point and well done. We don’t give gigs ratings here at TGTF – my opinion is, bands shouldn’t be penalised for nonband-related issues such as problems with the venue’s sound system and other technical difficulties. But White Lies were at the top of their game Friday night and if I were to give this gig a rating, it’d be 9.99.

More photos and set lists behind the cut.

Sun Airway Photos:

Asobi Seksu Set List:
Perfectly Crystal
Trance Out
Pink Light
Looks like “JAMC” on the set list, not sure what song this is

Asobi Seksu Photos:

White Lies Set List:
A Place to Hide
Holy Ghost
To Lose My Life
Is Love
The Price of Love
Farewell to the Fairground
Peace and Quiet
Bad Love
Unfinished Business
The Power and the Glory
Bigger Than Us

White Lies Photos:

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One Response

11:16 am
25th May 2011

White Lies will be one of the artists perfoming live this summer at the Beach Break Festival. You can win 4 tickets for 4 days and 4 nights of the finest fun, outstanding musical talent and an amazing vibe! You’re going to see performing live: Tinie Tempah, Katy B, Magnetic Man, Professor Green, Ms Dynamite, DJ Yoda, Newton Faulkner, We Are Scientists, Beardyman, Ed Sheeran, Yasmin and others. DJ sets by Mark Ronson, Sub Focus, Zane Lowe and many many more!!!!
Event Details: Pembrey Country Park, South Wales, 16-20th June 2011.

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