The last of the reverbed chords, provided by supporting act Syd Arthur rang out. And shortly after the band had been applauded off-stage, the Roundhouse crowd fell silent, awaiting headline act White Denim. The band released their latest album early this year and frontman James Petralli had expressed a desire to go back-to-basics with it. So, with a general consensus of praise from critics and fans alike for the album ‘Stiff’, it is obvious they are doing something right and as the crowd grew and grew, the anticipation to find out if they could still bring a fantastic live show was very apparent.
The band walked on stage to Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’. Albeit a strange song choice from an alt rock band, but one that fired up the crowd nonetheless. As they entered into their set, their comfort as an outfit is incredibly apparent. James Petralli’s vocals rip through the sturdy instrumentation created by the other band members and the band comes together to create a gritty, heavy rock aesthetic. As the jangling introduction to recent single ‘Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)’ begins, the focus they have taken on live performance is clear. The songs’ guitar part, that is somewhat weak on the studio version, commands the live performance. Coiled guitar notes bounce off the walls, muddied and distorted, as Mike St. Clair sprays ‘Manzareckian’ chords over the top.
Just before launching into the pacy, energetic song ‘Had 2 Know’, Petralli tells the audience to wear the 3D glasses that were handed out upon entry. This evidently signals the 3-dimensional section of the show was to begin. The lack of movement from the band is made up for by the sturdiness of their performance. Jordan Richardson’s cowbell keeps the beat as Petralli finds huge riffs in a wall of reverb. As a tremoloed solo from the keys brings the song to an end, they admit that there was no 3D effects and that they had given out the glasses to fool the audience. And though this didn’t result in huge amounts of laughter, the bands performance has no similarity to this deception, they aren’t deceiving the crowd when it comes to their performance. And they continue to rifle through songs that hit hard and are a pleasure to watch.
Petralli lets the crowd know that this is the bands biggest gig before launching into ‘Take it Easy’ one of the prettier and more melodic cuts off of the new album. The beautiful vocal collages are absent from this live rendition. However the passion and poise with which the band perform it is a pleasure to watch.
The bands performance only improves as the gig goes on. The basslines and drum riffs begin to move as one, becoming extremely powerfully. James Petralli moves seamlessly between rhythm and lead guitar, providing energy, and supporting the overall heaviness of the sound and the keys find a sound that is both erratic and calculated. Excluding a bit of movement toward the center, the crowd are largely still. However, this is understandable, White Denim are a band to watch as well as feel. There is a sense of spectacle as Petralli’s guitar falls into a reverbed distortion, only to explode into an intricate and powerful hook. As is watching band transition from a boundless, untamed instrumental into a popular cut from their discography.
Just after the band had performed fan favourite ‘Pretty Green’ as the first part of their encore, Petralli took the time to introduce drummer Jordan Richardson, who has only been with the band two months. This almost seems unbelievable considering the tightness of the instrumentation. And as the band begin their final song ‘Mirrored in Reverse’ the Roundhouse is once again awash with progressive, jazzy notes that seamlessly slide into heavy, rock motifs.
The bands’ power in live performance is undeniable. White Denim have carved an eclectic and entertaining back catalogue over their time together. And though one is generally satisfied with their commercial output, their live performance is a different story. Watching them play, the talent and organisation they have is immensely apparent. And this allows them to fill out venues like the Roundhouse. They were on fire in this venue, and the 1700-strong audience let them know it.