Whitney Sound Like Heaven at Music Hall of Williamsburg

October 11th, 2016

Whitney – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 10, 2016

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

What’s a young band to do, touring behind their much-acclaimed debut album? Throw out to the world every song you have and play with everything you’ve got. In this instance, the band was Chicago’s Whitney and the world was Music Hall of Williamsburg: “I wanna say the biggest venue we ever sold out,” said frontman-drummer Julien Ehrlich. Whitney played through their entire LP (10 songs), plus two covers last night, with the chops and tightness of a band that has that many albums recorded to their name rather than songs.

Led by Ehrlich at center stage, Whitney kicked off the performance with “Dave’s Song,” a momentum-shifting number that exploded into its hook-y melodic bliss mid-song, only to keep on expanding from there. Next came the summery anthem  “No Matter Where We Go,” featuring the catchiest guitar riffs sprinkled in from guitarist Max Kakacek (former member of Smith Westerns), which evolved into a jaunty, song-stealing solo. The forlorn and lovesick “Polly,” flirted with a maximalist chorus, offering only hints of it before ending in a beautiful trumpet solo from Will Miller. It’s not too often that you see indie bands fucking around with a trumpet, but Whitney perfectly worked the instrument’s buttery crispness into their melodic assaults.

The extended instrumental “Red Moon” featured everyone trading solos, beginning with Miller on the trumpet. Next came the Bob Dylan cover “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You,” sung wonderfully by Ehrlich—trading in Dylan’s Kermit the Frog–croon for his own gentle tenor. (Whitney also covered NRBQ’s “Magnet” in their encore.) The cheery “Golden Days” was introduced as a love song, “No Woman,” as a tune about having no girlfriend, and “Follow” as a song about death. But all three made for sing-alongs, carrying with each of them an optimistic, sunny feel in their own right, even the latter, which was inspired by the death of Ehrlich’s grandfather. With a band putting out music this strong, even tunes about death end up sounding like heaven. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

(Whitney play The Bowery Ballroom tonight.)