Whitney’s warm, soulful Americana is the perfect antidote to a cold, miserable election night, writes Joe Casson
8th November at Gorilla
Let me paint you a picture. Your breath catches in the air outside as rain falls. You find yourself in a crowded room, tucked under a smoky railway arch. Hundreds of miles away, a fascist demagogue is within grabbing distance of the levers of power as polls begin to close. Andy Burnham strains his neck to peer across the crowd.
No, this is not a fever dream, nor have you found yourself in a dystopian Mancunian adaptation of Twin Peaks. Rather, it is — contrary to all expectations — the perfect circumstances in which Whitney stopped off in Manchester on their sold-out UK tour.
It seems a world away from the dusty, pining Americana that made Whitney their name, but it is oddly appropriate. Julian Ehrlich and Max Kakacek formed Whitney after break-ups of both the professional and romantic varieties, and wrote much of their debut album Light Upon The Lake in the sub-zero temperatures of the 2014 polar vortex. The songs they wrote in that winter dream of warm, idealised summer days that feel like a long time ago
It is not been long since Whitney sold out Gullivers in the Northern Quarter, but two seasons on tour has seen the band grow a great deal since then. “We’ve been on the road too long”, laments singer Julien Ehrlich from his centre-stage drumkit, but he is a changed and energised man: modest but no longer sheepish, he can hold the crowd’s attention by talking with them between songs. More confident front-and-centre, he accentuates many songs with jazzy drum fills.
This newfound confidence can be seen in new song ‘Magnet’, played during the encore — it is a bolder, more danceable song that offers an exciting window into the kind of band that Whitney could become. Elsewhere, they expertly tear through every song on Light Upon The Lake. Jazzy instrumental ‘Red Moon’ is an unexpected highlight, taking full advantage of the six-piece line-up; the band also welcomes local funk troubadour Aldous Robinson to lend his bendy guitar flourishes to the extended jam.
Lyrically, Whitney still have the blues — the biggest cheers of the night go to the aptly named ‘No Woman’, which closes the set — but that should not stand in the way of a good time, and the buoyant mood of the night is testament to the camaraderie the band managed to cultivate with their audience, both in songwriting and performance. Whitney’s warm, soulful performance is pure early-70s radio gold, and with the United States poised to get a whole lot nastier it is important to have bands like Whitney on the road to warm our hearts.
If you were wondering, Andy loved it.