"The Plot," a buoyant rave-up laced with a shout-along chorus of whoa-oh-ohs, was the high water mark of White Rabbits' impressive 2007 debut record, Fort Nightly, a dancefloor-ready romp that turned explosive at the band's rowdy live gigs.
But things are clearly changing as the sextet prepares to release their sophomore album May 19. At their first U.S. show in six months, Wednesday night at Manhattan's Mercury Lounge, White Rabbits set the mood for a darker, dirtier breed of new material by opening with a faithfully scuzzy cover of Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing."
Live, songs off the new, Britt Daniel-produced It's Frightening veer towards no-frills rhythms peppered with jarring sonics. Both "Percussion Gun" and "Lionesse" found lead vocalist/pianist Stephen Patterson urging squawky, jagged sounds from a keyboard, while his warbling piano work on "Midnight and I" mined truly creepy territory, but with stirring effect. It's the kind of music Tom Waits might make if he were 29, not 59: dirty boogies fueled by uppers then washed down with whiskey.
Unfortunately, nuances of the new material were lost because of the bass-heavy sound mix. During "Lionesse," Patterson's repeated lyric, "Listen to me," came across like a plea for help, as the venue's overzealous subwoofers overpowered most of the high end sounds.This was a shame for a band boasting delicate piano work, a newly added layer of acoustic guitar, and great vocal harmonies (Patterson and guitarist Gregory Roberts are a near-perfect match).
Two groove-heavy new tracks, however -- "They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong" and "The Salesman (Tramp Life)" -- managed to avert the bass catastrophe, and both proved slinky enough to resonate with fans of the band's dancier material.
In the end, White Rabbits managed to squeeze 10 new songs into the 13-song show, including a set-closing romp through "Kid on My Shoulders" and an encore of toe-tapper "While We Go Dancing." And they established the tone right from the start: They'd been nightclubbing. Oh, isn't it wild?
Click here for more photos from last night!
White Rabbits setlist:
"Nightclubbing" (Iggy Pop cover)
"They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong" (new)
"Percussion Gun" (new)
"Midnight and I" (new)
"The Salesman (Tramp Life)" (new)
"Right Where They Left" (new)
"Rudy Fails" (new)
"The Lady Vanishes" (new)
"Kid On My Shoulders"
"Company I Keep" (new)
"While We Go Dancing"