White Denim – Whelan’s, Dublin
Globules of sweat have erupted on my brow. I’m standing in a glacial queue to enter Whelan’s on the last night of summer. From inside, the burnt-sugar groove of ‘Sweet Life Ruiner’ wafts out between the gaps in the shuffling ticketholders. Wyvern Lingo are opening proceedings tonight, which given everyone’s giddiness about the headliners’ return to these shores is a bit like being told you’re flight to the Maldives is getting a free last-minute upgrade. Move it, people.
It’s a rare thing to see a support act do more than just soundtrack the strident chatter of assembling punters and round-ordering but Wyvern Lingo are themselves a rare, and for that matter, beautiful, thing. Who would dare ignore the high-hat whispers and crawling bassline of ‘Subside’ or the R&B makeover they give to Alt-J’s ‘Left Hand Free’? Not I, and not most of the ground-floor throng.
The Wicklow jewels stroll off stage like gold medallists and reappear with facial hair, spectacles and an extra band member. Oh wait, that’s White Denim, whose changing line-up (only two if its original members remain in place) tonight resembles a cast of extras from My Name Is Earl. You wouldn’t fit a visa card into the Wexford St chapel as they start their engine with ‘Real Deal Momma’, the first of a set heavy on material from this year’s Stiff. My, what a beefy, granite-strength rumble the Texans create as they proceed to unfurl their American jukebox in a blur of quick fretting and abrupt key changes. ‘Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)’ is a 70s boogie strut that comes ready packaged with the strict instruction to “be yourself / try to have a good time”. When they dish out the acrobatics on breakneck numbers like ‘Holda You (I’m Psycho)’ and ‘Mirrored in Reverse’, it is as thrilling as the words ‘boogie’ and ‘woogie’ have ever seemed. What’s more, White Denim have real soul, the kind that’d make Curtis Mayfield misty eyed – the twinkling ‘Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love)’ exhumes the Chicago guru for a welcome final lap.
For music so tight-fitting – at times, you wonder are you watching the most well-rehearsed jam band on the planet – there is an earthy, goodtime subtone about White Denim that hasn’t necessarily come across on the seven studio albums they’ve briskly put out in the last eight years. For one thing, they actually look like real people on a stage playing to other real people, not some collection of busy jazz students flexing their love of Lizzy and Grand Funk Railroad. Rick Moranis clone Steven Terebecki is a brilliantly expressive bassist in the mould of Entwistle but his hands look like the only part of him that belongs in a boisterous rock quartet. Affable frontman James Petralli, meanwhile, laughs and grins and wriggles through the set like he’s just knocked off work for the weekend. Of course, watching the shadow of sweat descend down his polo shirt, you realise that’s nonsense; Petralli has never “worked” a day in the life of White Denim.
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