Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
White LiesPrevious Next
support The Ramona Flowers
author HES date 25/10/16 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN
Another night in my second home, another night in Vega’s magnificent hall - full speaker system recently upgraded from brilliant to absolutely amazing. If a band find themselves struggling here it is almost certainly their own fault. In the boxing ring, competing against themselves is the Ealing natives of White Lies. The brit-rock band made headway with their hit "To Lose My Life" and "Farewell To The Fairground" in 2009 and since then the band has followed up with now three albums: Ritual, Big T.V. and Friends with the two latter exploring a more 70/80’s vibe. Whereas both the debut "To Lose My Life…" and "Ritual" were critically acclaimed, the enthusiasm for the latter two albums has been more reserved. However, their following in Denmark seems to have remained dedicated over the years. Tonight will be the test of whether or not the band deserves it.
At a first glance, there’s not much to say about The Ramona Flowers and their easily digestible brit rock sound with dashes of 80’s inspired synths. The five piece fairs decent, led by vocalist Steve Bird whose voice is clear, but not great. But around one or two songs into the set, the experience takes a turn for the worse. Two of the band members have up until now switched between playing synths and respectively bass/guitar. It did seem a little excessive to bring to synth-racks, when they could’ve just shared. But no: It is because at some point both give up playing actual instruments to only play synths.
Instead of playing rock, we’re now treated to a monstrosity that can best be described as "rock with EDM breakdowns". The worst crime of the night is probably the "ballad" "Start To Rust" with its most banal lyrics, trying to be this grand story and sporting some good old sampled choir instead of actually utilizing synth guy one and two for the backup. The whole shebang is topped off with Bird showcasing a falsetto that he doesn’t really master, sounding strained as he acts out a stage persona that seems rehearsed. Needless to say The Ramona Flowers didn’t gain many additional fans this night.
It’s pretty clear already as the show sets off that White Lies know how to put together a song that works for a large-sized venue. The opener of the recent release "Take It Out On Me" strikes a chord with most of the young girls in the front lines of the floor of Store Vega. Vocalist Harry McVeigh demand most of their attention with his deep, characteristic voice. The follow-up in the shape of "There Goes Our Love Again" however re-sparks my doubts related to the band’s new direction of a more cyclical, 80’s sound. But alas, I don’t get much time to become too jaded, as the sound-defining single "To Lose My Life" hits us with its perilous, gothic motifs and accompanying dark synths. But something’s oddly wrong with the picture, as McVeigh stays somewhat anonymous and distanced from his overtly engaged audience. Actually, he comes off rather nervous.
But in spite of keeping up the otherwise very decent energy of the kick off of the show, the band decides to bring the level considerably down both in terms of energy and song construction with the forgettable "Hold Back Your Love" only supporting the rather lacklustre response from McVeigh to his devoted fans. Many of the new songs off Friends suffer from one fatal symptom in their design: The occupation with the 70/80’s sound has also shown itself in the song construction, that becomes cyclical: Repeating the same semi-decent motifs on and on. Almost to exemplify the shift perfectly the band strikes up "Unfinished Business" - in comparison a song with a great progression, contrast and emotional urgency.
This musical juxtaposition is followed by "The Price Of Love" that manages to stick out as one of the only "Friends"-tracks tonight. A lot of the relative success of these songs can actually be attributed to Jack Lawrence-Brown, breaking the 80’s landscape with some stark very not-sampled drums. Overall Lawrence-Brown is an absolute machine tonight, doing his very best to add just a tiny bit of contrast to songs like "Leaving LA", "Is My Love Enough" and "Getting Even" that would otherwise have been as tasty as sticking your tongue out the window. The band has moments, but these are mainly confined to the bigger songs of yesteryears like "Farewell to the Fairground", "E.S.T" and "Death" (which is awkwardly dedicated to their Danish fans. Don’t dedicate songs called "Death" to anyone).
During most of the performance McVeigh seems inhibited from interacting truly with his audience. It isn’t helped along when his only medium for contact with it - his voice - starts straining towards the end, making him miss several notes of some of the first bars of "A Place To Hide". The worst abomination of the evening however is the calypso-themed made-for-stadium "Don’t Wanna Feel It All". As the band plays an encore of "Big T.V.", "Come On" and explodes with "Bigger Than Us" I am faced with the reality of seldomly seeing a show as inconsistent as this. Half of the songs make me want to dance all night, the other half makes me want to fall asleep in a chair on the balcony.