Live Review: White Lies with VOWW at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 1st February 2017

By on Friday, 3rd February 2017 at 2:00 pm

Given the uncertain state of the music industry, and the entire world for that matter, it makes sense a band returning to the stage after a long absence would be feeling some trepidation, no matter how massive the band. White Lies are no strangers (no pun intended) to North America, having first made bloggers’ tongues wag back at CMJ 2008 and followed that up with several hugely successful tours traversing our continent. Returning 4 years after the release of ‘Big TV’, frontman Harry McVeigh revealed they had the common worry “that no-one would show up”. They needn’t have worried, as the White Lies’ faithful came out to fill the 9:30 Club this past Wednesday night.

The support on this tour are VOWWS, an Australian duo currently residing in Los Angeles. Envision Ian Curtis singing to dark Gary Numan songs, and you have some idea of what the industrial synth act sounds like. Interestingly enough, they collaborated with the ‘Cars’ pioneer on a 7”, ‘Losing Myself in You’, which proved to be the most arresting track in their live arsenal.

VOWWS live

As described in my review of it last October around its release, fourth album ‘Friends’ saw the band experimenting with disco and dance beats for the first time in their career. When I reviewed the LP, I had trouble accepting their new direction. I just couldn’t see it with a band like theirs, famous for their dark anthems with names like ‘To Lose My Life’ and ‘Death’. There’s always been a fantastically great pop element to White Lies’ music but prior to ‘Friends’, you would struggle to describe any their songs as truly dancey.

However, when you’re presented these new songs in all their glory in the live context, any reservations you might have had melt away. Many bands of recent memory have attempted to cross into dance, failed badly and even worse, have sounded entirely disingenuous. Introducing ‘Is My Love Enough?’, McVeigh’s explanation that “we decided we wanted some tracks people to dance to. This is one of our favourites” came across as heartfelt. Understanding where they’re coming from, ‘Hold Back Your Love’ seemed less phoned in, McVeigh’s wispy vocals with the synth chords making the whole thing sound like a great ‘80s guilty pleasure.

White Lies 2017 1

I’ve argued in the past that they put out consistently incredibly good singles but have had difficulty in creating full albums that can capture popular imagination. That said and while of course the purpose of this tour is to promote ‘Friends’, it was the gems from their back catalogue, either prominent singles or those hidden diamonds in the rough favoured by longtime fans that turned out to be the standouts of the evening. ‘The Price of Love’ returned to the band’s set list after an absence of what McVeigh said had to be over 7 years. The closing track from their #1 2009 debut album ‘To Lose My Life…’ concluded in such a triumphant way that the band should be very proud of. I have been following the band as a journo since their first tour in North America in March 2009, and even I had forgotten about that track.

This evening’s version of ‘Unfinished Business’ was an unqualified success, the driving and mesmeric rhythm song accompanied by McVeigh’s plaintive cries of “there’s a light in the distance waiting for me / I will wait for you”. Taken together, the song has the ability to simultaneously melt and break hearts at the same time; I almost fainted being swept up in the emotion. It was undeniable proof that we should be applauding White Lies for the strength of their back catalogue. I wasn’t keen on their new direction before this show but after it, I’m sold. While primary songwriter Charles Cave has proven his masochistic tendencies in songs like ‘Friends’ opening track and lead single ‘Take It Out on Me’, it’s clear that this is music that comes from the heart. As long as White Lies stay honest about where they’re coming from and where they’re going, we should have every reason to believe they’ll continue for many years to come.

White Lies 2017 3

After the cut: White Lies’ set list.

Take It Out on Me
There Goes Our Love Again
To Lose My Life
Hold Back Your Love
Getting Even
The Price of Love
Farewell to the Fairground
Morning in LA
Is My Love Enough?
Unfinished Business
From the Stars
A Place to Hide
Don’t Want to Feel It All
Big TV
Come On
Bigger Than Us

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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