White Lies entered the scene in the mid-2000s post-punk revival that also brought us bands like Editors, Interpol, and Bloc Party. Though their somewhat darker, melancholy sound and frontman Herry McVeigh’s baritone vocals led to them being dismissed by some as a Joy Division wannabes (despite their protests that they didn’t even like Joy Division), the London-based trio has found a dedicated international following over their decade-long career. They put out their fourth album, Friends, back in October of last year, and returned to the US this month for the first time since 2014 for a brief round of dates supporting its release. The band started their tour in DC at the 9:30 Club.
The band opened the show with a new song, “Take It Out On Me,” the first track from the record to be released as a single. McVeigh, backed by bandmates Charles Cave on bass and Jack Lawrence-Brown on drums, along with live keyboardist Tommy Bowen, then went back to the band’s previous album, 2013’s Big TV, for “There Goes Our Love Again.” This was followed by the title track from the band’s 2009 debut, To Lose My Life…, and for most of the rest of the fourteen-song set the band switched back and forth between this album (including “The Price of Love,” “Farewell to the Fairground,” and “Death”) and the new one (including “Morning in LA,” “Is My Love Enough,” and “Don’t Want to Feel At All”). As their first album likely remains their best-known and most popular in the US, it was little surprise that it featured so prominently in the set.
While the band may not be the most dynamic live performers (remaining, for the most part, planted in their respective spaces throughout the show with little movement or direct interaction), they more than made up for it in sheer energy. With their soaring choruses and full sound, it’s easy to imagine many of the songs in a much larger venue, though they never feel forced. And despite their frequently grim subject matter, there is a hopeful undertone that comes through and helps to give White Lies a distinctive sound.
For their encore, the band returned to play one song from each of their albums, opening with the title track from Big TV and following it with “Come On” from Friends. A brief conference between band members on stage led to an apparently unplanned rendition of “E.S.T.” from To Lose My Life… Though McVeigh indicated almost apologetically that they hadn’t rehearsed the song recently, their performance of it sounded spot on. They closed off the evening with “Bigger Than Us,” their one track of the night from their second album, 2011’s Ritual.
Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo VOWWS opened the show.