Whitney begin their set at The Cluny with riff-heavy ‘Dave’s Song’. Julien Kakaceck’ falsetto vocals are as rich as they sound in their debut album Light Upon the Lake, with a few cracks that come with performing live, to a crowd who know most of the words to your songs.
“Mostly break-up songs, the feeling is present and washes through everyone watching”
The space is intimate and the stage seems packed; Max and Julien at the front with the support band standing in a semi-circle behind. Hearing Whitney live is different to listening to the perfectly-mixed Light Upon the Lake through headphones. Seeing the six-piece together as a unit reminds you of the layers that contributed to the album. The brass intervals and Wurlitzer synth sounds give their tracks a more visceral texture, showcasing the breadth and talent of each musician’s ability to improvise. Contrasting this, a stripped down version of ‘Golden Days’ exposes the details that can get lost in their folk-y, indie pop exterior. With just a clean sounding guitar and Kacaceck’s voice, the vulnerable and sometimes melancholy lyrics seep into the (now entirely quiet) crowd. Mostly break-up songs, the feeling is present and washes through everyone watching.
In-between songs Julien checks in on the crowd, asking if we’re doing okay still. He talks about their tour; cities they liked and ones they didn’t so much. I like how Whitney, as a band, interact with the audience as an extension of their performance. From oversharing on Twitter to their live shows, transparency is key and it is refreshing.
Mid-set, Max fingerpicks the first few chords of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You’ before Julien introduces the cover. Whether it was a reference to the singer’s recent Nobel Prize for poetry or to the American folk influences that lace Light Upon the Lake, they manage to make a well-known Dylan song sound very ‘Whitney’, which is a sign of how distinctive their voice is already despite being so new.
“the heads in front of me go from bobbing lightly to being attached to wildly dancing bodies”
A pause and Julien puts down his drumsticks. It feels too soon for the gig to be over, and the crowd make this obvious; poised to chant their ‘one. more. song’s. ‘We don’t do the whole encore thing’, Julien replies pre-emptively, ‘so we’re going to play two more songs, go backstage, take thirty seconds to drink some water or whatever and then come back with three more songs’. They re-enter the stage and the sloppy-but-well-meaning trumpet solo of ‘Red Moon’ introduces the final quarter of their set. The pace picks up with ‘No Matter Where We Go’ and the heads in front of me go from bobbing lightly to being attached to wildly dancing bodies.
The band say their goodbyes with a triumphant version of ‘No Woman’, with the audience singing back the chorus. It ends with an extended play between guitar and trumpet.
If you haven’t seen Whitney live yet, you probably should. I’m excited to see where the six piece go next.