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Published: 2014/10/29
by Larson Sutton

White Denim, Fonda Theater, Los Angeles, CA- 10/21

Eight months after its two-night stand at the Troubadour, White Denim returned to Los Angeles. Ostensibly for the final night of its current tour, in essence this was the last day of a run that began in late 2013 with the release of Corsicana Lemonade and has taken the Austin, Texas quartet globetrotting for the past 12 months in support of that breakthrough album. All signs point to a return to the studio and a forthcoming release in the new year, but on this evening at the Fonda Theater, White Denim celebrated with a 90-minute blitzing barrage of guitar rock that encapsulated much of the band’s eight-year history.

Stomping as it swung, “Pretty Green” raised the curtain, followed closely by the Corsicana title cut and D’s “River to Consider,” with the track’s fluttering flute supplanted by guitarist Austin Jenkins’ fluid fretwork. After the sunburnt staccato soul of “Comeback” bled into “At the Farm,” then “Keys,” the foursome revisited its latest with the shuffling “Distant Relative Salute” and angular drive of “Limited by Statute.” The vintage movie house shuttered with each downbeat crash of Josh Block’s drumming, the bottom-end rumble of Steve Terebecki’s bass, nevermore than on the “WDA” jam that emerged from “Cheer Up/Blues Ending,” itself a vehicle for the prodigious vocal range of James Petralli, whose ability to climb neck-stretching octaves, slide behind the beat, or bare his falsetto, such as on the mesmerizing “Street Joy,” separates these very talented musicians from being just another band of players demonstrating their dexterity.

Not to suggest White Denim’s instrumental prowess isn’t worthy of comment, as the psychedelic cascades of “Mirrored and Reverse,” or “Radio Milk,” with syncopations and diversions careening in turns melodic, harmonic, dissonant, and delicate, envelop and explode while sidestepping arena rock histrionics or cliched melancholic affectation. Petralli and Jenkins are contrasting bookends, the former in constant motion, hunching over his semi-hollowbody or dialing in a foot-pedaled effect, while the latter remains mostly in fixed position, knee bent slightly forward, dressed in a button-down and an indefatigable grin. Together, they form a duo of punky-prog auricular collision equally nuanced and wailing.

Hammering home this final, exhaustive performance of 2014, for an encore there really wasn’t anything left to do except take off clothing, something Petralli warned against earlier in the evening, and Terebecki rebuffed, as it were, returning bare-chested to the stage a few seconds after his mates for “All You Really Have To Do.” It made sense. White Denim had given the audience everything, including the shirt off its back.

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