White Lies

White Lies

There’s only one direction they’re headed in...Night & Day Cafe, Manchester (September 22)

Thank you, this is our first ever sold-out headline show…” Harry McVeigh, singer and guitarist with White Lies, has a bit of a cold tonight, but it’s not showing. In fact, both he and his band are perfect. Maybe a bit too perfect. There are four matching black shirts, four serious faces, a pure, soaring voice (even with sniffles) and songs that jump at just the right points, their every last keyboard sound and dramatic power chord expertly placed.

It’s claimed White Lies had never heard the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Talk Talk or Tears For Fears before writing these songs, which is possible: they sound more like Ultravox than any of these groups. If it’s true, and they have learnt to construct bombastic, darkness-tinged new romantic epics all by themselves, then they are four (with live keyboard player Tommy) gifted individuals. ‘Farewell To The Fairground’ is first, amid a blaze of white light from the back of the stage. Then ‘Unfinished Business’, ‘The Price Of Love’, ‘From The Stars’… big titles, big, universal themes, with mentions of “funerals” and “fear” and “beauty” and suchlike. You suspect they have encountered little in the way of real darkness in their lives at this point, but it doesn’t matter. There is little said, barely even a look exchanged between band members, and there doesn’t need to be. There is no MySpace-phenomenon bellowing back of every line from the crowd – it seems this is a band who have arrived so fully formed people have yet to get their heads around it.

When bassist Charles briefly scales his monitor during the opening verse of single ‘Death’ it’s the only moment where White Lies are not in total and utter, detached control, and where any kind of chaos is glimpsed. Charles soon returns to his spot just by his amp. Chaos, you see, is not what White Lies do. In stark contrast to the ramshackle principles that have dominated new music in recent years, they do well-drilled perfection in the way that – even if they have never heard of them – all those great ’80s serious-pop groups who used to witter on about ‘manifestos’ did. They do pomposity in a good, ‘Vienna’ sort of way, and they are – to use a phrase they’ll find hard to avoid – unashamedly ‘widescreen’. This will not be their last ever sold-out headline show.

Hamish MacBain