Photos and Review by Chaz Brooks
If someone had told me that a hip upcoming band would open up a show with an acoustic falsetto of a Dolly Parton song with only guitar accompaniment to an audience of twenty somethings I’d have said that was a very high risk strategy. That’s precisely why Whitney are destined for big things.
Having listened to the band’s hugely impressive debut LP Light Upon The Lake over the past week it’s clear these guys take risks as the norm. All vocals are falsetto. All. Imagine an album with that? And what an album it is, it’s beautiful.
From start to finish the Brighton crowd lapped it up with rapturous applause. A large proportion of the crowd was singing along to most tracks Ed Sheeran/Glasto style. Except this was not Ed Sheeran, this was sophisticated country/soul-influenced pop.
And boy was it good. Whitney is a six-piece led by the charismatic Julien Ehrlich on lead vocals/drums and Max Kakacek on guitar, superbly backed by keys, rhythm guitar, bass and unusually and impressively, trumpet.
When I was sent the album to preview before the gig I drew strong parallels with Alessi, the American brothers Billy and Bobby, who had a huge one-off hit in the mid-seventies with the jazz-tinged single “Oh Lori“. On listening to the Whitney offering I couldn’t help but make comparisons, but had put it down to the coincidence that all the singing is falsetto.
So, imagine my surprise when Seabird, the last track off the Alessi debut album blared over the PA before Whitney came on stage. A very appropriate track as the band had spent the previous two days after appearing at Glastonbury hanging out in seaside Brighton. As Ehrlich said “You have a cool city, the most open-minded in the UK and you should be proud of that.”
Drums front of stage, Erlich is very much the voice and spokesperson of the group, with relaxed banter and a strong connection with the audience. A towel wrapped around his shoulders, he noted that few venues have aircon in the UK and that they were sizzling up on stage. The music was sizzling.
It was an intense, emotional 16 -track set of over 90 minutes, a faultless performance including most tracks from the album and several great covers. As well as the Dolly Parton cover Gonna hurry as slow as I can to start, the band played the Lion track You’ve got a woman, and the Golden Girls Theme Tune – Thank you for being a friend by the talented American songwriter Andrew Gold, of Lonely Boy fame.
Highlights of the set were Polly, Golden Days (introduced by Ehrlich as “This is for all the couples in the crowd. When you do break up, you’ll still follow each other on Instagram.”) and two of the three encore songs, a swinging cover “you can dance to” of the NRBQ song Magnet and No Woman from the Light up the Lake album.
Near the end of the set Ehrlich said “Would anyone in the audience please bring us some shots of tequila?” but then he realised “hey, there’s a bottle of whisky on stage” before taking a big swig and moving on to the next number.
This was a sensational gig from a band to watch. And watch again. “This has been real fun. Thanks” ended Ehrlich. It certainly was guys. Thanks.