White Lies, Everything Everything, I Am Arrows - Shoreditch Town Hall, London
First up on the London leg of Now Playing event put on by Three and Spotify in the lavish surroundings of Shoreditch Town Hall, probably one of the poshest places any of these bands would have played in, was ex-Razorlight and recent We Are Scientists drummer Andy Burrows’ new band I Am Arrows. One immediate thing you notice about the band live, as opposed to on record, is that the flowery pop-rock of the recorded versions are given more depth and a fuller sound, but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, especially in the case of album highlight ‘Another Picture Of You’, the jaunty vibes are almost lost within the fuller bass sounds and become less effective.
It’s not all bad though; the musicianship of Andy Burrows and the band easily prevent it from becoming a dreary drag of a set. Considering his background as a drummer, Burrows’ vocals are what really stand out and are strong enough to ensure that they, and not the guitars, become the focal point. Highlight of the set comes with ‘Bruises’, one of the slower tracks from Sun Comes Up Again, where Burrows is given full remit to shine, confident enough to "shhh" the crowd to fit in with the subtler tone of the track.
I Am Arrows even chuck in a crowd-pleasing cover of Tears For Fears' ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ before the end of their short set and while musically not that different from the original, it still impresses and thankfully doesn’t bastardise the original at all. However, when the fuller tones of the band’s live performance return in the closer of ‘Green Grass’, somewhat muting the summery bounce of the ridiculously catchy chorus, you get the feeling that I Am Arrows would be a much more satisfying live experience acoustically, if only to capture the breezy delights of their recorded output.
ANOTHER PICTURE OF YOU
EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD (Tears For Fears cover)
Next up were Everything Everything and if the reaction of certain people in the crowd is anything to go by, then they are very much a marmite live act. For everyone who loved their quirky take on electro indie-rock, there were just as many who were proclaiming it to be, in an old man’s voice no doubt, a lot of noise. To a certain extent, the latter point is valid as the band definitely take full advantage of the live arena to extend the tracks, sometimes to breaking point, but it generally succeeds in adding a different flavour to them. Unlike with I Am Arrows’ difference between live and recorded, Everything Everything’s output is almost dying to be experimented with and when it works, such as on the lo-fi electro funk of ‘Schoolin’, then it’s a joy to behold.
However, there is one element of the band that could prove to be a turn-off for many casual fans and that’s the vocals of lead singer Jonathan Higgs. His falsetto-esque delivery at the worst of times, such as on ‘Final Form’, can be extremely irritating and painful to the ears. Fortunately he does reign it in at times and when he does, it results in some fine moments such as on their recent single ‘MY KZ, YR BF’ which, dodgy title aside, is just quite brilliant and just pips the thumping ‘Suffragette, Suffragette’ to the highlight of the set. They might not be to everyone’s tastes but there’s no denying that, even if you are even a casual fan, they’re one of the most exciting live acts around, albeit maybe one best experienced in bite-sized chunks for the uninitiated.
LEAVE THE ENGINE ROOM
MY KZ, YR BF
TIN (THE MANHOLE)
Headliners on the night were White Lies and they took full advantage of the occasion to showcase tracks from their forthcoming second album Ritual, scheduled for release next January. Seven new tracks were performed throughout the set and if their live display is anything to go by, there has been no difficult second album syndrome for the band. Pleasingly, there has been no shift away from the darker rock tones of To Lose My Life and while not necessarily experimental, several of the new tracks are far from what you’d call commercial rock and revel in extended solos. Set opener ‘Strangers’ is one such track and is shaping up to be this album’s ‘Death’; big riffs combining with an even bigger chorus to form a track that is as anthemic as it is euphoric. They haven’t shied away from the more straightforward rock tracks a la ‘Farewell To The Fairground’ either; lead single ‘Bigger Than Us’ possesses a menacing keys-led slow build-up before it explodes into life as lead singer Harry McVeigh powerfully proclaims “I don’t want you to hold me / I don’t want you to pray”.
White Lies aren’t the most charismatic of live acts, although they are probably one of the politest such as McVeigh’s apology for playing too many new songs, but the restrained, somewhat serious, nature of their live set fits perfectly with their music. It doesn’t appear likely to change either with the new album treading the same cheery themes of love, loss and death, but there are times when McVeigh lets the veneer slip. A perfect example of this comes during the penultimate track ‘Death’ when he goads the audience into a reaction just before the brilliant burst of guitars and synths in the track. It’s so unexpected that it achieves the maximum impact and brings the whole venue alive as though the wall of sound and the pulsating crowd are one resulting in a fitting monument to one of the finest tracks of recent years.
If one were to be hyper-critical of tonight’s set, it’s that the new tracks performed don’t seem to show the band moving on in any particular way from their debut. However, the new material is a lot richer, more accomplished and on a much bigger scale than before which is more of an obvious step forward from the band than if they had decided to go all stadium rock on us (*cough*Kings Of Leon*cough*). Arguably, it’s perhaps more of a testament to the strength of the new material in that it already seems like an old friend when so often new material played by a band can stick out like an unwanted guest at a party.
The strength of their debut album meant that White Lies had a lot to live up to: To Lose My Life was one of our top albums of last year but on the evidence of tonight, Ritual is a firm favourite to follow in its footsteps; some bookmakers might even have suspended betting on it being so.
TO LOSE MY LIFE
A PLACE TO HIDE
PEACE & QUIET
FROM THE STARS
BIGGER THAN US
FAREWELL TO THE FAIRGROUND