Finally. For any and all that ever gave or heard the very justified reports of a White Denim live experience, there is finally the proof on record. The Austin, Texas quartet has been reluctant to issue a concert album in their decade-plus of playing, denying the general public irrefutable evidence of their explosive performances, leaving it to YouTube clips and word-of-mouth. Now, with this 23-song inferno, the rumors can be confirmed, over and over again.
Leave it to White Denim to further apply a cryptic creative sensibility to the whole thing, choosing setlist shorthand and pseudonyms to identify the tracks of this appearance captured in the backyard of their Radio Milk studio. So, “Drugs” becomes “Dorgs” and “Magazin” becomes “Zin,” and so on. Really, the titles are secondary, even incidental to the incident; a powder keg packed tightly, then ignited.
It’s a near continuous hour-plus of music, with most songs transitioning seamlessly into the next, often in a blur. The highlights are many, and they buzz by pretty quickly at times. Hear the crowd audibly gasp at drummer Greg Clifford’s hyper-speed fills on “Farm,” or singer/guitarist James Petralli’s soul-shaking voice pair with his Hendrix-like riffs on the “Mirrored 2” and “Mirrored 3” and “Mirrored Too.” Listen as bassist Steve Terebecki glides between doubling guitar lines or supporting Clifford’s kick to countering keyboardist Michael Hunter who, himself, is countering and/or doubling Petralli. It’s dizzying and brilliant and fun, and it’s a highly representative showing of White Denim, recorded and released, at last.
There is an exacting ambition about these four that belies how in-the-moment the playing appears. The corners are sharp and the segueways so clean some go by in a blink, yet the show is loose in the best ways; sometimes it’s a wash of sound where guitar and keyboard seem to trade tonal spaces, or when echoed vocals waft above the syncopated frenzy below. A lot of the set is drawn from more recent entries in their catalog, particularly the Performance and Side Effects albums, but mixed in are some of the earlier punky sprints such as “Start To.”
All in all, it’s a blitzkrieg akin to any of White Denim’s more recent outings on tour, filled with furious precision, idiosyncratic arrangement and medley, and musicianship that is mostly unrivaled in today’s rock-and-roll.