Returning to Sheffield after nearly three years away to show off their fourth studio album, Friends, White Lies seemed unchanged from the group who burst onto the scene with a number one debut album in 2009.
Stepping onto stage at the o2 Academy, retaining the same modesty they conveyed when touring To Lose My Life… eight years ago, the band needed no flashy outfits, backdrops or expensive stage props to engage this crowd.
In fact, the only sightings of the new album cover were on Jack Lawrence-Brown’s drum kit and on the chests of dozens of die-hard fans who had splashed out on the tour t-shirt.
The front two, Harry McVeigh (lead vocals, guitar) and Charles Cave (bass guitar, backing vocals), were dressed humbly in jeans and black tees. White Lies are all about understatement – until the music kicks off.
Anthemic new single ‘Take It Out On Me’ got the gig underway, but the crowd, which varied widely in age, really got going when the drums kicked in for the classic ‘To Lose My Life’ after just three songs.
The band fitted six tracks from Friends into the set, with four of these squeezed into the first half before a flurry of oldies took over the second period. Encouragingly, these new songs felt just as spirited as the classics, with many fans already singing along to every word.
The big singles were interspersed with the slower ‘Unfinished Business’, ‘A Place to Hide’ and the goose bump-inducing ‘From The Stars’, which McVeigh performed alone at centre-stage under a single spotlight.
Aside from their catchy guitar riffs and rousing choruses, what really endears White Lies to their fans is their ability to tackle difficult feelings of love, life, fear and death in their lyrics. You wouldn’t say White Lies write happy songs, but there’s certainly something euphoric about their ruthless tackling of these sensitive subjects.
An encore of ‘Big TV’ and ‘Come On’, the set was fittingly closed with the only track from second album Rituals to make it onto the set list, the thought-provoking, captivating ‘Bigger Than Us’.
Devoted White Lies fans will wonder why the band has had so little air play since their debut album. But, if it means they’re still regularly treated to this kind of intimate gig, none of these fans will be complaining any time soon.
Photo by Drew de F Fawkes