On Saturday I entered the O2 Academy to the fabulous sound of Tears for Fears' 'Head Over Heels'. This seems an apt start for an evening of synth-infused indie pop, heavily influenced by the 80s music scene.
When White Lies debuted their first album in 2009 they reached the No.1 spot in the album chart, and were awarded both MOJO's Breakthrough Act and the Q Awards' Best New Band. At the time they popped onto my radar, and I still have a number of their songs as part of the assortment of music I have collected over the years. The opportunity to see what the band is like 8 years later, and having reached their fourth album, Friends, is a fascinating one.
The gig starts well with the punchy 'Take It Out On Me', and the band quickly develop a rapport with the packed, very appreciative audience. While I may have stopped following White Lies, it is clear that there are more than enough fans remaining in Oxford. The band blasts through songs from all four of their albums, with standouts including the sombre 'To Lose My Life', the euphoric 'Morning in LA' and the grandiose 'Big TV'. But the best song of the gig, where all four band members come together so strongly, is 'Is My Love Enough'. At the band's best, their songs ripple with energy, aided by a fantastic set of lights, which bathes the audience in colour.
The biggest issue I had with White Lies is that they don't have the diversity of music to sustain an hour-and-a-half long gig. Once you've heard one melancholy-infused synth pop song from the band, you've heard them all. They highlight a fascinating dilemma; how does a band sustain themselves once the hype has disappeared? In White Lies case it has been to keep producing a steady stream of songs that feel as though they have been ripped straight from the soundtrack of an 80s teen movie. And as good as they are at producing synth pop time capsules I craved a little bit more diversity.
But the audience loved the band and the band was clearly touched by this show of affection for them. Dedicating the final song to the audience lead singer, Harry McVeigh, highlighted the gap between the last album and their new one, delving into the journey the band has gone on to come back with new music, and how much it means to have an audience in front of them again.
There is certainly a strong argument for the kind of time capsule jukebox that White Lies produce. They are a nostalgic trip for the music of the 80s, for a band that arrived almost ten years ago, and for the music that I was a fan of at the time. As the world around us goes through a remake of the 80s, why shouldn't we embrace music so enthused with the era? And if that is to be the case, why not re-embrace White Lies. Certainly having seen them live, I will be keeping an eye on what the band does next.