White Denim – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 11, 2014
The headlines kind of write themselves: White Denim burn down Music Hall of Williamsburg or White Denim play blazing show in Brooklyn. Thankfully, despite an unplanned fire drill midway through their set, there was no literal fire in Williamsburg last night. Metaphorically, however, the headlines stand up pretty well. Playing the middle show of a three-night run at Music Hall, White Denim were hotter than hell, setting the room on fire, downright blazing and any other cliché you can think of. They began the set with a smoldering, soulful “A Place to Start,” the last track off their most recent LP, Corsicana Lemonade, and then hopped into that album’s opener, “At Night in Dreams,” a heavy-duty dose of concentrated Allmans, with James Petralli and Austin Jenkins giving a preview of what would be a night full of two-guitar prowess. “At Night” kicked off a multisong medley, the first of many such signature excursions: two or three songs with instrumental interludes, quick-stop segues and check-your-baggage jam-outs. This first one ended with a stretched-out version of “Drug,” off their 2011 breakthrough album, D.
With White Denim, each show feels like the best they’ve ever played, and the best they’ve ever played and Thursday felt no different, although years of touring in their now-steady quartet form seems to have elevated and matured their jazz-metered, free-form Southern-rock sound. Select tunes were slowed or mellowed a bit, providing room for more interesting dynamics. “River to Consider” was a good example, as its normal breakneck pace was given a more deliberate rendering that allowed for a tremendous slow-build jam. Shortly thereafter, as the band tried a similar trick with “Anvil Everything,” the fire alarm sounded and the room was cleared (I must say in a very orderly fashion). Following a 20 minute smoke-’em-if-you’ve-got-’em intermission on the sidewalk of N. 6th St., NYC’s Bravest gave the all clear and the crowd returned with a little fresh-air buzz.
The break seemed to have a filter effect on the audience, those who were there to drink and be social went off to a bar somewhere, and the remaining crowd was smaller, but a bit rowdier with room to boogie and throw fists in the air. White Denim gave plenty of reason to do both, launching a few more highlight-reel sections starting with another medley that began with a restarted “Anvil Everything” and ending with a stretched-out, swallow-everything version of “I Start to Run.” Things turned looser as the show came to its furious conclusion, large swaths of the band’s last few albums coming together in exciting combinations. The pairing of the acrobatic instrumental “At the Farm” and a beautiful, stripped-bare “Keys” was an inspired moment among many. When everyone filed out the front doors for the second time, giddy, glazed looks in their eyes, there was no doubt that White Denim had, indeed, set the building on fire. —A. Stein