Friday, April 3rd, 2009
Farewell To The Fairground
White Lies, Friendly Fires, The Soft Pack at Lee's Palace in Toronto
Frank YangEven without the “NME Presents” endorsement attached to the tour, I suspect the White Lies/Friendly Fires/Soft Pack show at Lee’s Palace on Tuesday would have been a sell-out. All three acts came with their own built-in buzz, so in fact the venerable British publication may have been counting themselves lucky to be associated with the tour rather than the other way around.
Sole non-Brits on the bill, The Soft Pack – formerly known as The Muslims – were tasked with kicking things off. The San Diego quartet got to play to a not-especially full house, evidence that all the North American buzz that they’ve been generating since last Fall didn’t necessarily translate to the Anglophile demographic. And though I’d been hearing about them for months, this was my first time actually hearing them and I can’t say I was tremendously impressed. They certainly had a good sound – the ingredients of their surf-garage pop aesthetic sufficiently familiar but their particular recipe still reasonably fresh – but none of the songs particularly jumped out as being remarkable and their performance was pretty staid.
But most things would probably come across staid when held up against middle act, St Alban’s Friendly Fires. I wasn’t especially won over by their self-titled debut but I now realize that sitting and listening to it in the comfort of home is really the wrong environment for it. The proper setting is in a club, in front of the stage, as their dual drummer/percussionists make a glorious, rhythmic racket, the guitarist freaks and flails and singer/keyboardist Ed Macfarlane dances and shakes his hips non-stop despite the fact that, let’s be honest, he really doesn’t have any. It’s a good thing. I’ve heard them described as indie, pop, dance and various combinations thereof, and sure they all apply to some degree, but watching them go, I’d just put them down as disco and go. No, there were no glitter balls and the fashions were pretty tame, but the spirit of the unbridled, unending party? That was real. And while it did end after 40 minutes, it did so with an audience invasion and a speaker climb and mass percussive instrument abuse. The sort of thing you’d hate for any band to have to follow.
But this far into the tour, watching their countrymen bring the house down every night before they took the stage, White Lies must have been used to it. Now as I intimated in my review of their UK chart-topping debut To Lose My Life, White Lies require a certain amount of buy-in on the part of the listener. Kind of like how horror films require you to suspend disbelief, to accept that monsters exist and that their potential victims really are that stupid, White Lies need you to believe their angst is real, and that there’s genuine weight behind their vague pronouncements of profundity. Manage that, and for the most part I have, and they’re reasonably enjoyable. Behind the stark lighting, all-black outfits and Harry McVeigh’s dramatic baritone – decidedly scratchy-sounding by this point in the tour – are some truly catchy pop songs that will have you singing along, even if you feel kind of guilty about it. Get into it enough and you won’t even question the rather contrived posing and self-seriousness (it’s amusing seeing McVeigh’s baby face trying to look intense) – at least it’s entirely in character. Like Friendly Fires (and Cut Off Your Hands the night before, White Lies seemed to put stock in the notion of leaving the audience wanting more, keeping things at a very compact 40 minutes and eschewing the encore. Of course with only ten songs in their repertoire they couldn’t have gone on much longer even if they’d wanted, but closing out the night when they did and getting folks out on the streets before midnight with a solid night of tunes under their belt? Nothing wrong with that.
Photos: White Lies, Friendly Fires, The Soft Pack @ Lee’s Palace – March 31, 2009
MP3: White Lies – “Death”
MP3: White Lies – “Death” (Crystal Castles remix)
MP3: Friendly Fires – “Jump In The Pool”
MP3: Friendly Fires – “Paris” (Aeroplane Remix)
MP3: The Soft Pack – “Nightlife”
Video: White Lies – “Farewell To The Fairground”
Video: White Lies – “Death”
Video: White Lies – “Unfinished Business”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Skeleton Boy”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Paris”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Jump In The Pool”
Video: Friendly Fires – “On Board”
Video: The Soft Pack – “Extinction”
MySpace: White Lies
MySpace: Friendly Fires
Stream: Doves / Kingdom Of Rust
Matablog has details on the closest thing we’ll see to a new Belle & Sebastian record any time soon – the soundtrack to Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl, which was originally supposed to be a film but there’s no mention of that aspect in the release. Take that as you will. The album is out June 23 but you can get the first MP3 for free by singing up to their mailing list on the project’s website.
Idolator reports that Charlotte Hatherley’s Cinnabar City now has a US label in Minty Fresh and have got a track from said record to hold you over until the vague Summer release date gets more specific.
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