Whitney graced the stage at Manchester’s Gorilla on the eve of the US election result and on a night like this, the band (from Chicago) who are signed to the label Secretly Canadian, probably (not-so-secretly) wished they were Canadian. The band walked onstage early, sound checking for themselves. Julien Ehrlich, the drummer and lead singer, took a sip from the bottle of wine he kept beside his drum kit, which was perched at the very front of the stage. Despite the ‘duo’ image that Whitney present to the media, their live show already appeared to be a huge evolution from their studio material, as the 6-piece band took their positions onstage for the opening track, ‘Dave’s Song’.
Even though it was a dark number to open with, ‘Dave’s Song’ served a purpose in showing how the band are capable of bringing their multi-layered sound to life, sounding much better than on record. Or perhaps it just reflected their mood towards the then imminent election result. Ehrlich expressed his surprise at the growth of their fanbase, saying that it was “a lot bigger than the last show [they] played here”.
‘No Matter Where We Go’ transported us to the Nevada Desert, sounding like the perfect soundtrack to an American road trip. Rather disappointingly however, each song seems to finish too soon, with jams added to the end of each song to pass the time. ‘Polly’ presented Julien in his most vulnerable state, even making use of the venue’s disco balls during this song, taking us back to the 70’s and culminating in a triumphant trumpet solo.
Then, the band invited their friend and local musician Aldous RH onstage to jam with them on the instrumental track ‘Red Moon’. Julien showed off his impressive co-ordination skills during a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’, simultaneously playing drums and singing into an awkwardly angled microphone. Who said that men can’t multitask?
Despite their songs sounding youthful and optimistic, the band seemed truly drained, declaring that they had “been on tour too long”, to which they received “no sympathy” from the audience who were desperate for more. Of course, they mentioned the election, with Ehrlich telling the crowd that they’d spent the day drowning their sorrows. They injected some vitality into the set for ‘The Falls’, before swiftly returning to morbid doom & gloom for ‘Follow’, a song “about dying”.
For the encore, the band returned to the stage with yet more bottles of wine for the title track of their excellent debut album ‘Light Upon The Lake’. Julien expressed his pride in the fact that most of their European tour had sold out but foolishly made the mistake of saying that they were about to play Bristol and London later in the week, to which he received huge boos. To distract from his rookie error, he professed his love for the UK by boldly claiming that “if Trump wins … I’m here”.
After endorsing salsa dancing for the penultimate track, a stellar cover of ‘Magnet’ by NRBQ, Ehrlich said that Manchester got “the best performance of that song” so far, with a big contented grin on his face. Predictably, Whitney finished their set with ‘No Woman’. Walking offstage to a majestic outro, the band invited the crowd to do karaoke with them on a bar crawl, proving that they are really as genuine as they seem… talented, fun and completely aware of it.