Gig review: White Denim at O2 Academy Leeds

White Denim at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
White Denim at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
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White Denim’s lead singer and figurehead James Petralli looks distracted.

Whether it’s a rouge light shining into his face or a sound problem is hard to tell, but he’s staring into the distance, distracted throughout the first 15 minutes of the near two-hour set with which the Texan garage rock band hit an expectant Leeds crowd.

A crowd that could in no way claim to have any distractions, such is the live force that White Denim are. The bluesy, fuzzy guitar sound that pervades their recorded work, not least on latest release Performance, had grown muscles and increased energy levels. The noise that Petralli extracted from his instrument making people stop in their tracks, from opening track Backseat Driver through a set that covered all eight of their studio releases.

It could have been expected that this is a band that likes to be different, not to conform, from the first minute of entrance music being 1999 dance classic Sandstorm by Darude. With the exception of a couple of opportunities where physically the band couldn’t continue with their medley style of amalgamating track after track without a break for the entire evening, crowd interaction was kept to a minimum to enable the band to churn through the best part of 30 tracks.

There are a number of stand out moments, Mirrored in Reverse is given a new lease of life as are favourites Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah) and Shanalala. Tracks from Performance stand themselves in good stead, in particular Magazine and Fine Slime, but it’s the offerings from 2016’s Stiff that are the most memorable, Had 2 Know (Personal) in particular.

It’s not all plain sailing, whilst Steven Terebecki and Greg Clifford provide strong structural foundations through the bass and drums respectively, Petralli has a tendency to head off on an unscheduled journey of over indulgence once in a while. It’s no more than a frustration, borne from White Denim attempting to cover all the bases in a short period of time, the ‘medley’ set style eventually causing the audience to become similarly distracted on occasion, before dutifully coming back to the fold as that hard rock sound rang out once more.

Opening the evening had been the inimitable BC Camplight, back in Leeds again since his last headlining tour in October 2018. Camplight’s career has a number of false starts but latest critically acclaimed offering Deportation Blues formed the mainstay of this all too short support slot. The man is a formidable raconteur and musician, all in fine evidence here once again, not least during track I’m Desperate, the hook of which has become firmly engrained in any number of minds over the past 12 months.