Chicago’s Whitney make short, sweet albums of indie soul. The second, Forever Turned Around, came out recently, and is full of memorable songs. The band they emerged from, The Smith-Westerns, were fun but frivolous. Nothing throwaway about Whitney, whose drummer and singer Julien Ehrlich (above left) takes centre stage. His diffident manner and Ed Norton meets Chris Martin looks appeal to the large female contingent in the packed, mostly twenty-something audience.
The seven piece band includes two keyboards and occasional horns. Ehrlich’s blue-eyed soul voice is a distinctive wonder. It takes me half the set to realise what the soul inflected songs (co-written with guitarist Max Kakacek) most remind me of: pre-disco era Bee Gees. There’s also a clear influence from the late Southern soul giant Allen Toussaint, whose Southern Nights they cover in the first encore.
Most of the band’s two albums feature in the main set. In case we find those songs too one paced, they throw in a jaunty cover of NRBQ’s cheesy Magnet in the middle of their 75 minutes. Other songs have less cheerful subjects. ‘That one was a song about anxiety,’ Ehrlich says between Light Upon the Lake and Follow. ‘This one’s a song about death.’ Their strongest numbers are saved for the end, a powerful No Woman and the lovely Valleys (My Love). Excellent.
Manchester’s Aldous RH, opening, performs with a backing track and occasional electric guitar. His stage presence is hardly up there with Jason of Sleaford Mods but, somehow, it works (except when he mimes keyboards). Largely because he has strong numbers and a great voice. His songs are woozy, Sly Stone infected soul. The Curtis Mayfield to Whitney’s Hall and Oates, if you like. His 35 minute set includes a cover of the Impressions’ Keep on Trying, after which he urges the young audience to register for the forthcoming General Election. He got my vote.
This is my review from the Nottingham Post.