At the beginning of his 1997 live album, Year of the Horse, Neil Young offers a warning. Perhaps intended as an inside joke for his assembled Crazy Horse musicians or for the benefit of the listening audience, Neil shouts “It’s all one song” before launching into a furious barrage of grunged out rock and roll gems.
When the album ends an hour or so later, as a listener you really do feel as though you’ve been through a long, sweaty triathlon; your ears ring, your voice cracks, and your face even hurts a bit from the full fledged musical assault. As Young promised at the outset, there were few pauses during the course of the concert as Young, Molina, Talbot, and Sampedro simply locked in and delivered a focused set of uninterrupted brilliance.
In a similar vein, the four members of Austin, Texas’ White Denim took the stage Saturday night in Hoboken, and proceeded to pummel the capacity crowd with an onslaught of frenetically paced and emotionally fueled songs and instrumental histrionics.
Taking the small stage at Maxwell’s a little after 11:00pm, the band briefly huddled together to discuss the set list, before launching the affair, barely stopping for breath along the way. Each song typically wound down with an extended jam before seamlessly segueing into the next. The airy and expansive “No Real Reason” kicked things off with James Petrallli’s vocals hitting a nice high register as Steve Terebecki’s bass synced in perfectly with Josh Block’s ferocious beating of the drums, which also anchored the guitar interplay of Petralli and the newest addition to the band, Austin Jenkins. From there, the intensity was kicked in with a spirited take on “Bess St.” and the show was off and running.
And while the songs are great, particularly tracks like “Street Joy”, the country stomp of “Keys” and fan favorite “Shake Shake Shake”, White Denim’s strength lies in the explosiveness of the four members as a live outfit. Together they are a force and this force was on full display throughout the night as they thrashed through unmitigated takes on songs like “At the Farm”, “I’d Have It Just The Way We Were”, and “Anvil Everything”.
The show was almost into its second hour before the band came up for breath, with Petralli politely saying hello to New Jersey and offering a Chamber of Commerce produced salute to the charms of Hoboken. The crowd needed no acknowledgment however, as the tiny venue was stuffed to capacity with sweaty and enraptured fans who danced, grooved, and hung onto every word. Evidence of the spell White Denim cast over the crowd could be found in the beer lines, which were the shortest I’ve ever seen at a sold out show. It was in fact, quite difficult to break away from the ride which White Denim was providing. As a band who can blend together the often disparate styles of psych-rock, prog, soul, and alt-country all fused together with a jam based ethos, I have a feeling the stages will only get bigger for White Denim.