Today, I’m going with a show from the start of last month. I know, it’s a bit past its expiration. But like many previous entries, this one’s been sitting in the queue, waiting for me to work my way down from the top, and give it what’s due. That brings me to May 8th at the Fonda Theatre in beautiful run-down Hollywood, for a rather spirited performance by English indie act White Lies.
These Brits tend to brandish the post-punk label, which is fair enough. But I find them closer to indie rock, with a healthy helping of unapologetic pop on top. Their tunes are melodic and memorable, a bit on the lighter side, even when their lyrical content goes dark. They’ve got a lot of songs about love, both the good and the bad … “There Goes Our Love Again,” “Is My Love Enough?,” “Don’t Want to Feel at All,” “Getting Even.” They’ve also got songs about death, their biggest literally being “Death,” which also might qualify as a love song. You get the general idea.
That being said, White Lies do tackle these seemingly shallower waters with a near effortless ease, often doing it better than most. Of course, their music isn’t quite the lightweight affair that one might glean from first impressions. It’s catchy stuff, for sure, immensely listenable and full of pop-flavored hooks that’ll have you humming or singing along in no time. It’s also pretty high-energy, which is probably where the post-punk associations come from.
But there’s also a subtle complexity and subversive playfulness that transcend these tunes from straightforward pop to edgy indie rock. The difference is that White Lies keeps things feeling light and easy, even if they’re not. Their latest material from the current fifth album, aptly titled “FIVE,” is perhaps their most direct nod to what’s been lurking beneath the breezier surface of earlier efforts. It’s also their most evolved and expansive, not quite experimental, yet willing to step outside the comfort zones.
Still I love these older tunes. They remind me of more innocent and simpler times, where music could just be entertaining and fun, without a magnum opus to accompany it. Don’t get me wrong. I like that too. But sometimes White Lies is exactly what I need … which brings me to their Fonda performance.
These guys are mainly a trio, expanding to a four and/or five-piece for their live shows. Makes sense, giving their energetic songs an extra instrumental boost. White Lies are quite good at translating their music to the live setting, incredibly confident and focused. There’s no fancy LED projections or choreographed lighting ballets. Just a few strobes and the standard Fonda lighting package. So good thing the performance stands on its own.
And they’re faithful to their studio recordings, getting the mix sorted just right, where everything sounds clear and balanced, yet louder with a bit more sonic oomph. Harry McVeigh’s vocals are crisp and clean, remarkably audible amongst the power-pop rhythm section and fuzzed guitars. And their songs are short and sweet enough to squeeze a lot of them into their set, while keeping the energy spontaneous and rolling throughout the hour and a half show.
I’ve got a bunch of clips below, ten in total, including all the aforementioned tunes from the start of this post. Most of them are catalogue favorites, my personal go-to’s being “Big TV,” and the previously noted “There Goes Our Love Again” and “Death,” which if memory serves, I posted on this blog many months ago. I just remember it being used to spectacular effect in the Iranian vampire film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.” There’s also a couple of tracks from the latest album, the catchy “Tokyo,” which incidentally has a weird music video that you can see on their Facebook site, and the more nuanced and evolved “Fire and Wings.”
So here they are. Enjoy this batch of live tunes from White Lies at the Fonda.
White Lies perform “There Goes Our Love Again” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “Is My Love Enough?” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “Getting Even” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “Don’t Want to Feel at All” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “Take It Out on Me” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “Big TV” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “Death” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “Tokyo” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
White Lies perform “To Lose My Life” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19..
White Lies perform “Fire and Wings” @ the Fonda Theatre on 05.08.19.
Lastly, here’s the show’s setlist, which includes all of the above, as well as a number of other favs, and a few additional new ones too. If you know White Lies, you’ll enjoy this fairly comprehensive set, or at least, as much as can be fit into an hour and a half. And if these Brits are new to you, this is a great intro to their spirited pop-infused indie post-punk rock. Enjoy!