White Lies at Subterania, London, UK – 26th July 2018

Posted by Bianca on Thursday Jul 26, 2018 Under Indie rock, New Wave, Post-punk

Gig Review by Ryan Beardsley with Photography by Bimal Tailor

I’ve been to some sweaty gigs in my time but come on.

The temperature in West London had reached 34 degrees as I arrived at Subterania, a tiny venue situated underneath a railway line, that was already packed to capacity. Straight away I knew I was in for an intense evening, and the surroundings were perfect for the first White Lies gig in almost a year.

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Unusually, there was no support band which actually helped to ramp up the anticipation for the band and was reflective of the group’s current state without an active record deal/label, White Lies were going it alone.

The show began with a rapturous reception for the North London post-punkers as they embarked on stage with few airs and graces, launching straight into third album opener Big TV, sending the sweat-soaked crowd wild. I couldn’t help but notice a lack of swagger from the band and if anything, they appeared genuinely nervous about returning to the stage after such a long absence. I was intrigued to see if this tentative approach would continue as the show progressed, but more on that later.

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The crowd pleasers and mass singalongs continued with To Lose My Life and There Goes My Love Again, with the fans around me united in their devotion to their returning heroes. Apropos to this, my good friend and fellow Gig Junkies’ contributor Rob Johnson and I have often discussed acts of a certain stature and pondered the question;

‘Do you think there are 100 people in the world for whom (in this case), White Lies are their favourite band?’ This question is asked in an attempt to quantify a group’s success in terms other than just financial, or through respect amongst their peers. It is particularly relevant here and I would have an answer to this question by the end of the night…

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It was now time for some new material and rather than the usual horror about having to stand and listen to something they don’t know for three minutes, as is normally the case at any live show, the crowd were genuinely excited to see what the group had been working on since 2016’s Friends.

Once again, frontman Harry McVeigh appeared genuinely apprehensive as he explained that they were playing Believe It for the first time. He needn’t have feared as the song’s live debut went down well, with many singing along by the end. In terms of the track itself, in truth, I wouldn’t have known it was a new composition if not for the intro, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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After this it was back to the hits and the most impressive showing of the night is reserved for the band’s most well-known track, Farewell To The Fairground. There is a lovely moment at the end of the song where the crowd continue to chant back at the stage:

‘Keep on running, keep keep on running, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home’.

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The crowd actually cue the band perfectly to dive into one more performance of the chorus, something that drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown seems ready for as he begins to cue the band himself for one more belting rendition that would bring the house down…

But after a few nervy glances exchanged between McVeigh and Charles Cave on bass, sadly the opportunity isn’t grasped and the moment slips away. This was a real pity and sums up the limitations of White Lies as a live act. At times the gig genuinely reminds me of a band playing their first ever show, not in terms of the quality of the performance, as musically they’re right on from opening through to the encore. More in the sense of a general lack of confidence and introversion throughout, which I will, in this case, put down to the fact it is their comeback show after so long away.

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The show climaxes with a rendition of debut album opener Death, their finest composition in my humble opinion and I must admit there are a few hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention, as McVeigh slows the band down ready to belt out the chorus for the final time. They stroll off to yet more rapturous applause before the inevitable encore.

Upon their return, Don’t Want To Feel It All feels like an odd choice, seeming to deflate the crowd just a little bit, but only momentarily as McVeigh announces that their final song will be Bigger Than Us. It’s a massive song and one that becomes enormous in the intimate setting of the Subterania.

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Harking back to the question of how many would consider White Lies as their reason for being, at the end of the gig I felt compelled to split up a scuffle between a woman in her 50s, held back by her teenage son, and a girl around my age who really should have known better. Believe it or not, they were not fighting over a drumstick, or a drenched t-shirt fresh off the back of Harry McVeigh, but a screwed up piece of A4 paper with the setlist printed on it. This nicely sums up the level of devotion on show this evening for White Lies, and there are clearly several hundred people inside Subterania tonight who were watching their favourite band. While I was not one of them, there is no denying White Lies power as a live act for the chosen few.

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See the complete photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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