These bands made me wistfully sentimental of the ’80s, but not being what I’ll call a music scholar, this was purely an emotional response. White Lies brought to mind bands I really liked – Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division/New Order, The Cure. Friendly Fires’ territory I’m less familiar with. While not opposed to European-style dance music (or even, in some cases, what was once called “house music” and “dub” but I’m pretty certain isn’t anymore), I know nothing of this genre or the multi-splintered sub-genres this mutated into throughout the late ’80s up until now. So I figured I’d better do a little research so I didn’t feel like a complete idiot.

Harry McVeigh of White Lies

Harry McVeigh and Jack Lawrence-Brown of White Lies

So I pulled up an NME review from back in August 2008, of Friendly Fires’ debut release. I figured this would be especially insightful, since this show was an “NME Presents” production, meaning these are bands that they’re hoping to break over here. First off, I realize now how little of European music filters through to the average U.S. music fan. And I had an epiphany. I now know how to approach these sorts of reviews. You have to read the thing as if you’re reading a work of fiction; a short story. Enjoy it on that level. You may or may not gleen any information about the band in question, depending upon if you’re in the 1% of people who actually know what the heck they’re talking about. The Boston kids last night (I’ll say kids because most seemed in the 18-20 range) would probably read a line like “Instead of becoming Turin Brakes #2 they got turned on to Chicago house, Kompakt records and getting sweaty in a Berlin tenement at 6am” and answer with a resounding “huh??”, but they do love to dance, and in the end, that’s all that really matters.

White Lies (Harry McVeigh – lead vocals, guitar), Charles Cave (bass guitar and backing vocals), and Jack Lawrence-Brown (drums). They’ve been compared to Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen, and claim Talking Heads as an influence – none of which are bad things. I’d have to sit down with lyric sheets to tell you if the songwriting matches the emotional passion of the music (yes, so it seems – see the lyrics posted on their official site – thanks so much, guys). I found them to be very hypnotic and engaging, and it was clear they already have a sizable following, as many people were singing along. Thinking back on the show now, I have to say what a great pairing these two made. Whereas White Lies were a more “dreamy” sort of dance music, Friendly Fires was an over-the-top party, which I think blended together nicely and made for a perfect build-up to the festivities. I’m reading now that White Lies lead singer Harry McVeigh had throat problems two days before in New York, which I wouldn’t have realized at all by the way he belted out their tunes. A lovely voice, and a very nice performance by all.

As I came to the show completely unfamiliar with their music, I can’t speak to specific songs, but the setlist from NYC (Boston’s was probably the same or similar) was: Farewell to the Fairgrounds, To Lose My Life, E.S.T., A Place To Hide, Unfinished Business, Fifty On Foreheads, From The Stars, The Price Of Love, Death.

Friendly Fires. No buildup or tentative start here. These guys came out and immediately launched into a hyperkinetic infectious 80’s style synth-pop dance groove mixed with tribal percussion and throbbing bass. Quite nice. The problem I had with dance music back in the day was not the keyboard synthesizers, but the synthesized percussion. Personal preference, but I could never get emotionally involved in that fake drum sound, and certainly not to the level where I’d have to leap around. Highlighting the driving force and focus of this band, the drummer (Jack Savidge) was set up right at the front of the stage, and it was around him and bassist/percussionist Rob Lee that the other two feverishly swirled like drunken mystics.

Lead singer Ed MacFarlane is a wildman possessed, and you’re immediately drawn into his orbit. Writhing and contorting wherever the music took him, it took him into some strange and magical places, including into the steamy, frenzied audience at one point, where he sang virtually the entire song. Guitarist Edd Gibson ventured out into the crowd as well, to sanctify the visceral connection that had been forged.

Again, the setlist from NYC was as follows: Lovesick, Jump In The Pool, Skeleton Boy, In The Hospital (this I definitely remember – fantastic), White Diamonds, Strobe, On Board, Paris, Ex Lover.

I should also say that San Diego band The Soft Pack was also on the bill, but I unfortunately missed them, as I’m still trying to figure out this whole “North Shore to Boston club” concept.

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