It’s been a couple of days since I saw Texan prog rock foursome White Denim at Southsea’s Wedgewood Rooms and I’m still not over it. I have to admit I didn’t know much about the band beforehand, but that probably made their impact all the more powerful. First impression? Ridiculously good.
White Denim have been around a while, earning a loyal following of passionate fans over the course of eight studio albums. Their sound is truly genre-bending, merging rock, punk, soul, psychedelia, dub and jazz with pretty much everything in between.
The current tour is a celebration of their latest record Side Effects, a fantastical collection of bluesy prog rock. There really is something for everyone across their back catalogue, but what really packs a punch is the White Denim live experience.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a band so technically perfect yet naturally effortless, and it was such a treat to see them somewhere as intimate as the Wedge. The band blazed seamlessly through songs without a break, jumping from retro-sounding Mirrored in Reverse straight into jerky jazzy number Sky Beaming and back to new album glam rock highlight, Hallelujah Strike Gold.
The set’s pace swept the sell-out crowd up with them, and it didn’t take long for us to forget it was a Monday night. The energy didn’t dip once during the marathon ninety-minute set, even more impressive as lead singer James Petralli told us the band had gorged themselves on far too much pie and mash at their signing at popular local record café Pie and Vinyl earlier that night.
Favourite moments for me were early hit I Can Tell, which has one of the catchiest riffs going, new album opener Small Talk (Feeling Control) and mid-album track NY Money, with its dreamy drive-all-night instrumental finale.
Switching tempo and musical vibe on a dime, White Denim delivered jaw-dropping breakdowns and guitar solos in spades. Everyone joined in with Petralli’s funk-inspired chorus on Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah), but it was the gorgeous Street Joy, a delicious come down after so much dynamism, that really showed what his soulful voice can do.
Hanging around after the gig with several other punters trying to take in the brilliance of what we’d just seen, I managed to take a picture of the scribbled set list, a mammoth 30 songs long and not even complete. We certainly got our money’s worth from White Denim, and then some. If you like live music in any capacity – just go see them.