White Lies

support In The Valley Below
author TL date 25/11/13 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Monday the 25th in a November which has had more maddening concert clashes in Copenhagen than I can remember. Avenged Sevenfold, Parkway Drive and Karnivool all had shows on the same day. Then Glen Hansard played the same night as Drenge and tonight, White Lies are playing at the same time as Frightened Rabbit, which means I've been tearing out my hair while trying to decide which show to attend. Because I never got to feel like Frightened Rabbit delivered on my sky high expectations for this year's "Pedestrian Verse" I eventually opted for White Lies however, and as you will likely see in HES' soon to be aired review of the Frightened Rabbit show, I chose wrong. There, I said it, now let's not let that interfere with the rest of this review.

So like I said, it's Monday night and I'm in the bigger of Vega's two venues, swigging pints with two Revolution Music colleagues trying to find breathing room in a sold out, rammed full concert room. It's a big show we're getting ready for, which means there are plenty of rare concert guests around who display questionable etiquette and spatial perception, squeezing in front where there's no room to do so, expecting for 'their places' to remain theirs when they depart mid-show for refreshments and opting to spend half the show getting terrible smartphone footage. I spend my customary moments wondering if venues and bands could do more to inform casual fans like this of how to not be uncool, and as usual, I'm soon interrupted by the arrival of a support band.

Full gallery from the show available at troest.nu

In The Valley Below

In The Valley Below are a quartet from California who opt for a rather curious appearance on stage, dressed in what looks like traditional Amish outfits and with singer/guitarist Jeffrey Jacob sharing an elaborately formed dual-mic stand with his fellow vocalist Angela Gail. This immediately makes for some awkwardness, because their mics are so close it looks like it's meant for them to be singing to each other half the time, yet while Gail looks like she's more infatuated by Jacobs than with the audience, her male companion doesn't meet her gaze for a second, rather opting to respond to her every approach with a cold shoulder, turning to brandish his guitar for the audience. It makes it look like Gail - who is singing the best of the two tonight I might add - is trying to get the band's collaborative performance in sync, while Jacobs seems more concerned with his own personal connection to the audience, and with struggling to find comfort in his own vocal parts, and I can't but wonder if there's been some pre-show turmoil in the band's dressing room or something.

Soundwise the group's music feels like a mix of Cold War Kids and The Jezabels with patiently growing songs that are part folk-rock, part synth pop, yet simultaneously all big and all laid back. The numbers actually sound really well-constructed from what I can hear, but eventually they just add more awkwardness to the show, because while they sound huge and full of understated drama, the band's anemic stage presence completely counter-acts any energy their compositions seem meant to conjure up. Especially the moments of clearly singalong-intended "whoa-ohs" are criminally under-delivered, as are the band's autopilot, between-song comments. "This is our first show in Copenhagen. It is exciting.". Things come to an almost comical stop when the set ends by Jacobs showing that he's bothered to learn how to say "Thanks" in Danish, yet seeming like he can't get off the stage fast enough after saying it. Consequentially, the whole thing feels like an absent minded routine performance, and probably the first show ever when I've simultaneously felt that I'd like to check out the band's music online, yet also that I probably wouldn't be very interested in seeing them live again.


White Lies

When the lights dim for the second time and the headliners grace the stage, they do so wasting no time to get down to business, launching right into one of their biggest signature tracks in "To Lose My Life" from their debut album of the same name, and this immediately gets the crowd going, with people bouncing and singing along elatedly to the chorus. The early momentum is carried on with "There Goes My Love Again", one of the new singles from the band's new album "Big TV", before things mellow down just a little bit with the performances of "Place To Hide" and "Mother Tongue".

Taking a moment to look at the show during these, it's clear that if White Lies has anything to prove in terms of appearance, they're happy to trust that entirely on their - admittedly impressive - light show. Behind the trio and their two touring synth players are five large vertical LED panels illuminating the show with different colours and with live video images from the show, while countless white strobes either flash or sharp green laser beams streak all the way through Vega from the front to the back. The visually muscular production is matched by the sonic one as well, as a mix that's well-adjusted from the beginning and a singer/guitarist in frontman Harry McVeigh that's singing spot on, has the band sounding as close to record quality as you can probably get without actually just playing the records over the PA.

As the show reaches its midpoint through "Streetlights", "Farewell To The Fairground" and "Be Your Man" however, I can't help but to also notice how ordinary and inanimate McVeigh and his companions - Charles Cave on bass and backing vocals and Jack Lawrence-Brown on drums - look in their performance. Dressed in casual everyday clothes that contrast the light setups elaborateness, Cave may groove about a bit while playing, and McVeigh may sound completely convincing when he introduces "Streetlights" and for the first time mentions how much the band enjoys playing in Denmark and in Vega in particular - and I believe him somehow - but there's nothing in the actual performance that backs this up. Save for some gesturing to make people clap along, the guys look completely chilled out on stage, and there's nothing in McVeigh's singing or composure to indicate that his songs and lyrics are more than products to make large crowds sing along and jump up and down.

While the band neither employs what you could expect of either "introverted post-punk shoegazers" aesthetics or "flamboyant empathic rockstar" personas, rather opting to just sort of be there like a trio of detached regular dudes, the crowd however, is on form tonight, especially during material from "To Lose My Life", which is richly represented with "E.S.T" and "Unfinished Business" making appearances before "Death" closes the regular set. The applause is generous and the floor is stomped to insist on hearing the encore, which ends the one and a half hour sing along with "Big TV" and "Bigger Than Us", yet while this sends many a young White Lies fan into the early night gratified, I confess to feeling a bit unsatisfied.

On one hand it's blatant that the band is great at writing catchy melodies and singalongable refrains, as the choirs never really die down during tonight's whole set, so even though I'm puzzled by the band's choice to include a mediocre cover of Prince's "I Would Die 4 U" over the "Rituals" tracks that are the best and most underappreciated in the band's discography - "Strangers" and "Holy Ghost" - the standard of material is fairly high. It is however also incredibly homogenous, with all the band's songs written by the same formula, and the similarity of the material means that it's hard to feel a dynamic in the show. This is what the band could provide by maybe trying to look like the songs mean something to them. It's telling that when the band does introduce a song like "Unfinished Business", they allude to what it's meant to their career instead of what it means to them personally, exemplifying that if tonight is anything to go to by, White Lies are excellent, only mostly as a jukebox band. They sound like their records and they have fancy lighting, so if you have your friends and some drinks and you know the songs, then you can sing along and have a grand time. You're just not coming home with any feelings of having found a more authentic relation to the band you just watched live, and from my perspective that's a void it's tricky to make up for, no matter how many lasers and synths you can throw into the mix. Solid and well-received, yet a little too dispassionate for my taste.



  • To Lose My Life
  • There Goes Our Love
  • Place To Hide
  • Mother Tongue
  • Streetligths
  • Farewell To The Fairground
  • Be Your Man
  • E.S.T.
  • Power & Glory
  • Getting Even
  • Unfinished Business
  • I Would Die 4 U (Prince cover)
  • First Time Caller
  • Death


  • Big TV
  • Bigger Than Us

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