Words by Graeme Elliott
For a band which created such laid back music, Whitney are hard working bunch – touring heavily in support of their debut album Light Upon the Lake. The hard work is definitely paying off though as Hare & Hounds is packed; there is palpable excitement in the room as the audience waits for the band to enter.
Front man and drummer, Julien Ehrlich, is the first one to wander on stage, his baggy shirt tucked into his grey sweat pants and towel draped around his neck; gym chic. He introduces their set by telling us they will be shaking up the order this evening; a way to liven things up on tour, no doubt, although their debut album’s title track, ‘Light Upon the Lake’, is an oddly gentle choice of opening. It almost works too, and the band injects more energy into it as a live version – but it still feels a little lost and timid thrust out up front.
Things soon pick up pace, and the subsequent combo of ‘Polly’ and ‘Red Moon’ prove the highlights of the night. For ‘Polly’ the band provides a grand sweeping backing to the Ehrlich’s falsetto, before the song gives way to its soulful trumpet outro. And live the swing of ‘Red Moon’ is emphasized – with Max Kakacek’s lead guitar and Will Miller’s trumpet trading melodies, playing off each other. It’s only a shame that it ends too soon; it feels like Whitney could have pushed this gentlemanly dual between their two musicians a bit more.
As we move towards the second half, the set sags a little. A passable cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You’ doesn’t help, but the final combo of ‘The Falls’ and ‘No Women’ close out the set on a high; the band pausing to soak up the applause and say goodnight before launching into the final brief outro of ‘No Woman’.
This brings me to a concern I have with Whitney; their songs are skillfully played and arranged, but nothing fully grabs hold of you as you expect it should. ‘No Women’ being a typical example; a fine song, but it never seems to build to the heights it threatens to and ends too suddenly.
Too many times Whitney’s songs seem to stop short and they can seem a little flat because of it. Unarguably a hard working band, filling venues from Chicago to Birmingham, but perhaps Whitney could push themselves a little more – to give their songs more space to build on record, and to improvise with live. This could do a lot more to liven up their gigs than rearranging the set list.
For more on Whitney, visit www.whitneytheband.com
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For more from the Hare & Hounds, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk