“Keep on running, keep, keep on running, there’s no place like home,” crows White Lies frontman Harry McVeigh, hands cupped to his ears, urging the crowd to join in the words to ‘Farewell to the Fairground’. For the Ealing-based five piece, London is where home is, and there is no place like it on Tuesday night, as the band complete a jubilant homecoming gig in front of a sold-out Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Kick-starting their UK tour, White Lies are in a buoyant mood as they fire off ‘Take It Out On Me’ – the first single from new album Friends – ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ and ‘To Lose My Life’ in quick succession. “It’s so good to be back in our home town,” McVeigh says with a smile, before joking with the audience that they “might even share the bus home” together after the show.
The packed Shepherds Bush venue is a significant step up from White Lies’ last outing in the capital, an intimate 200-person show at Shoreditch’s Kamio, but this doesn’t stop the band playing a hefty amount of material from their latest album.
The reaction is mixed, however. ‘Hold Back Your Love,’ an 80s-inspired disco number, gets a decidedly lukewarm reception and falls slightly flat. The likes of ‘Morning in LA’ and ‘Don’t Wanna Feel It All’ are better received, but still feel somewhat formulaic in their delivery.
At times, McVeigh even sounds a little bored, constrained by the simple structure of ‘Is My Love Enough?’ – a track he bizarrely states is one of the band’s favourites off the new record.
White Lies are at their best when their enigmatic frontman is able to let loose vocally, something he does in spectacular fashion on ‘The Price of Love,’ taken from the band’s 2009 debut To Lose My Life. Drenched in red light, McVeigh wears the churlish grin of a man who can’t quite believe his luck, staggered by the reaction to an album track released almost eight years ago.
It is the success of that album, however, that keeps White Lies’ fans coming back for more. Lyrically and musically, To Lose My Life remains a benchmark the band have not been able to reach since. To their credit, McVeigh and co. recognise this, and delight the audience with triumphant renditions of the majority of the album, from the morbidly brilliant “Unfinished Business” to the gloriously anthemic ‘Death.’
“We were away for three years, that’s quite a long time for us,” McVeigh admits as the show draws to a close, “I really hope it’s not too long until we see each other again.” Listening to the crowd bellow the lyrics of ‘Bigger Than Us’ back at the singer in emphatic fashion, you’d think they’d never been gone at all.