Yisel Reviews White Lies @ August Hall, San Francisco

Yisel Reviews White Lies @ August Hall, San Francisco



English band White Lies are currently touring the States in support of their fifth album, aptly titled “Five.” Our Berkeley-based writer Yisel caught them on their way through the Bay, and here’s what she had to say. If you’re wondering whether to catch White Lies while they’re in the country, read on:

The first and the last time I saw White Lies was back in 2010 in my hometown of Guadalajara when they were touring the album To Lose My Life… (2009) and some new songs from Ritual (2010). It had been nine long years since I’d sung out loud to those songs and yet the lyrics still pulsate within me.

Yesterday, May 7, 2019, I finally got to see White Lies again at August Hall in San Francisco. The venue is a petite Victorian theatre in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood that provides an intimate space for rock shows. The crowd were a variety of different ages – I saw a little girl of about nine years old with her parents; some teenagers; and even some people who could be my own parents.

Opening band The Active Set played a short set comprised of songs like “I Will Listen,” “Actual,” “Say Goodbye,” and “Let’s Go Out.” Originally from Los Angeles, The Active Set are comprised of Matthew Stolarz (vocals/Lead guitar), Gabriel Grinta (Drums), Alen Racedo (Bass), and two more musicians when playing live, Friday (guitar) and Tim Chichetti (guitar). They have a mellow indie-rock sound and a lot of energy on stage; and as you could clearly see on their faces as they played, they were definitely enjoying the opportunity to be opening for White Lies.


The Active Set

The Active Set


White Lies graced the stage shortly after, ready to rock all of the fans with their first song “Time To Give” – the opening song from their new album Five. Despite being the longest song on the album with a duration of 7:35 minutes, “Time to Give” just seems to fly. Around minute four the song fades into an instrumental movement in which the guitar and keyboards disappear your own notion of time – or as the lyrics put it, leave you “an endless hole you’re falling in.”

They followed that perfect opener by taking all their fans back to the beginning with their hit “Farewell to the Fairground” from the album To Lose My Life…(2009). The crowd’s reaction was elated--everyone was singing, everyone was clapping their hands together without the band even asking for it. And right when Harry started to sing the bridge “Keep, Keep on running/ There is no place like home,” I couldn’t avoid feeling a strange sense of melancholy: it’s been 10 years since that song has been around; it’s been a long time since I’ve left my original ‘home.’ And yet, this song is still with me.


White Lies


The third song, “There Goes Our Love Again”  from the album Big TV (2013) was the perfect song to dance to, and the next song “Is My Love Enough?” saw this older redhead lady towards the front singing along to the lyrics as if she was singing  to her own lover. In between songs, frontman Harry McVeigh took a couple moments to engage with the crowd, saying “I haven’t been to SF since the last time we played…that was back in 2008…” before a female voice came back correcting him, “it was 2009.” As the concert progressed, more people could be seen dancing and singing. I couldn’t avoid feeling that somehow these people understood and found something about themselves within each song, a testament to the band they so clearly loved.

The setlist wasn’t as focused on newer material as you’d expect from a band touring a new record. Rather, they actually did a great number of songs from their past albums. I was delighted to hear songs like “Unfinished Business,” again, and classics like “Big TV “ for the first time live. Their song “Tokyo,” currently their number one song in Spotify, was the penultimate song of the set, filling the room with as some ’80s-tinged dark, danceable vibes, before finishing up with “To Lose My Life,” the title track from the album they toured when I first saw them all those years ago.

White Lies - Tokyo (Official Video)

After they finished their set, the band left the stage together, before only Harry came back on to serenade all the fans with the song “Change.” It was such an emotional moment--Harry playing the keyboards and singing the chorus as if his voice was breaking with his confession: “But my love/ I’ve never been too good at change.” Another one of the ladies who was close to the stage wore a devastated face every time he sang the chorus: she, like the rest of us, was heartbroken in the best way. After he ended the song, the rest of the band came back with drummer and set MVP Jack Lawrence-Brown holding a beer and bassist Charles Cave walking directly to his bass guitar as the band went into “Fire and Wings.”

White Lies were originally supposed to do three songs for the encore, but a fan had written on his phone, with what looked like an app that resembles MS Paint, the title to the song “Hold Back Your Love.” Harry saw this and confessed to the crowd that he forgets the words to that song occasionally, yet that didn’t stop him from fulfilling the fan’s request and playing it, making his night and mine (thanks, stranger! I really wanted to hear that song too). The night ended with the song “Bigger than Us” and with a bunch of fans trying to obtain the set list or any other artifact from the band. One girl jumped on stage after the band had left to grab their set list. An older lady stretched her arm for what she thought was another set list, but ended up being a sheet with some lyrics--which she gave back so Harry could use them at the next show. That’s how excited people were about White Lies: filled with such love that they’d go leaps and bounds for a souvenir from an unforgettable night.

White Lies bask in the glory of a great set.


Nine year have passed since I saw White Lies for the first time. After today, I can surely say that I hope it’s nowhere near as long before I see them again.