Packing out the suitably beautiful New Orleans style venue Mama Roux’s, Whitney take to the stage on one of the hottest days of the year. ‘We used to do this shirtless’, leader singer/drummer Julien Ehrlich teases us. ‘But we’ve had too many sushi rolls since then.’
Opening with ‘Dave’s Song’, we are instantly submerged in a sense of tender-nostalgia as Julien’s angelic falsetto soars before us. It is fragile, but strong. We expect it to break at any minute, but it never falters. Behind him, the band’s signature trumpet comes in picking up where he leaves off, creating a perfectly bitter-sweet musical unity. ‘Polly’ continues in this vein, and the band unite in a musical embrace that elevates their much loved tracks to a level of whimsical-gentleness uncaptured by their critically acclaimed debut album.
At the heart of the gig lies a deconstruction of the band/audience divide. The audience are as much a part of the gig as the band. At one point, the band drink a bottle of straight gin handed to them from an audience member, before teasing him about being a ‘mad man’ for drinking straight gin. The guy then demands for it back, and it is through this constant interaction between band and audience that the gig thrives off of.
Even when introducing a new song ‘about depression’, the band remains optimistic. Whitney’s music is an embracement of the bad times, and a recognition that these times are inevitable. But, ultimately, they get better. It’s a celebration of the inevitable and the strength that follows. Carried by nostalgia and their signature trumpet that emerges throughout their songs like a ray of sunlight emerging from a cloud across a lake, their new tracks show that Whitney are still looking adversity in the face with a well-wrought resolve.
It is an evening that bathes in optimism, despite the heartache that lies at the centre of it. It is happy, it is sad, but Whitney never let life get the better of them. As the band perform ‘No Woman’ as they close the show, you couldn’t help but feeling infected by Whitney’s ability to find the silver linings in times so clouded.
Image: Matt Lief Anderson