An Evolved White Denim Sound at The Bowery Ballroom

April 27th, 2016

White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2016

White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2016
You know what they say, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” That old adage was proved true last night at The Bowery Ballroom. It was certainly true for Sam Cohen, who opened the show fronting a new self-titled band and yet still continuing his asymptotic approach to psych-pop perfection. With a thick slab of dreamy synth and McCartney bass added to his own spiral-sliced guitar, Cohen raved up songs from last year’s Cool It release. As the crowd continued to fill the room, the band filled it with a new, mutated version of Cohen’s characteristic reverberating sound on songs like “The Garden” and “Unconditional Love.” The set ended with a long, chaotic version of “Let the Mountain Come to You,” synth and guitar providing a proper headspace for the headliners.

Change is definitely nothing new for White Denim, who returned to New York City for two sold-out Bowery shows with a new lineup and a new album. And while, yes, the band has sacrificed a little finesse for a lot of muscle, the feeling in the room was that, as far as their live set is concerned, this was the same old White Denim. New material from the recently released Stiff album meshed quite literally with the old, James Petralli, Steve Terebecki and crew stitching together several songs at a time, giving the audience little chance to catch their breath, in classic White Denim fashion. The opening stretch bounced between blues strut, Beatles swirl, breakneck prog and Rhodes-disco soul with a balance of gale-force rock and roll and laid-back aw-shucks ease. Two-guitar instrumental passages glued together Petralli’s Southern-soul singing, satisfying all the left-brain/right-brain tendencies of the boogie-down crowd. Midway through, Cohen returned to the stage for “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah),” off Stiff, the presence of his third guitar like that of a pistol in the first act, eventually going off in a great back and forth with Petralli. “At Night in Dreams,” off 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade, was representative of the evolved White Denim sound: jazz groove exploding into monster rock and roll in Banner-to-Hulk fashion, quite literally leaving shredded denim in their wake. As has been the case for nearly all of their NYC appearances going back to their trio days, the set was filled with long stretches of dizzying which-song-goes-where? segues and jams to the packed crowd’s delight. And if at some points—like midway through “I Start to Run,” off 2009’s Fits—it felt like things were just short of an out-of-control stampede, all the better.

After 80 minutes of this, the set finally capped off with a concise, rocked-out “Shake Shake Shake,” from their debut album, but the show was far from over. Returning to the stage with Sam Cohen (not just the guy, but the whole band), the now nine-strong ensemble treated the crowd to a perfectly arranged Prince tribute medley. Starting with “Let’s Go Crazy!” (complete with spoken intro from Cohen), they worked through portions of “Delirious” and “Controversy” with superfun WD-style segues and Petralli doing an admirable job on the vocals. Somehow the sound remained groovy, not too top heavy with all the doubled-up musicians onstage and a little jam opened up before they expertly brought it back for the closing riff of “Let’s Go Crazy,” which definitely wasn’t the same old, same old for White Denim. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross |