Band/Artist Profile Concert Review

The Mystery of Authenticity and The Pale White

Yeah, the guitarist and the drummer are brothers. Once I realized this small, yet crucial fact after a quick wikipedia search, their entire performance made sense. 

The Pale White are a three-piece rock band from the United Kingdom. I saw them play as the opening act for the Pixies at the Olympia Theater in Dublin, which I was lucky enough to visit with my mom on her birthday trip. We bought the tickets last minute the day before the show, as we had previously thought it wouldn’t even be worth trying to attain them. The Pixies were playing a three show stint and the first two nights sold out instantly. We were thrilled to get seats in a stroke of fortune and went in blind about the opener. I had never heard about The Pale White. 

We went early to the venue, and it wasn’t quite full yet. Our seats were up on the balcony. The Olympia Theater is beautiful, with French-style plaster flourishes in white on the maroon walls, chandelier, and a large red, velvet curtain half-hoisted behind the stage. 

In a chaotic burst, the drummer came first onto the stage to hype up the audience. His presence was instantly frenzied as he raised his arms for applause and cheers. I think the entire audience instantly got the sense that this guy was wildly intense about his craft and meant serious business. Then, in succession, emerged the lead singer and guitarist, as well as the bassist. 

Instantly, my mom leaned over and whispered, “Who’s band do you think this is?” 

She made a good point. The drummer had made a statement with his energetic appearance, saying silently, this is my project, this is my music, this is my sound.

He played with incredible ferocity. Everyone in the theater stopped what they were doing and paid attention. There was a theatrical air to his performance, as he waved his arms and thrashed his body and spat over the high hats in emphasis. 

However, he wasn’t the only one overexerting himself. The lead singer and guitarist yelled, stood in front of the drum kit in what seemed like an intentional way, beckoned for the photographer to come to him as he struck a dramatic pose as a shredded. They were almost battling each other for musical dominance, and the music took a backseat. Meanwhile, the bassist was seemingly unconcerned, standing stationary and adding absolutely no flair or edge to his performance in a focused and functional manner. 

At the end of the set, the drummer staggered off the stage, barely able to even walk because of the exertion his playing had required. His performance was notably bursting with talent, but it was taxing.

I had no idea what to think. This was a band where you got a crystal clear idea of their social relationship through their performance. There was no cohesion or space for each other to shine. It was, from start to finish, a fight for something unspoken. Whether it was the audience’s attention, or to be the best musician, or to make a name for themselves through sheer force, I didn’t know.

While they weren’t well coordinated, they had lots of potential. The song “That Dress,” is punchy and fun, reminiscent of the Black Keys or the Last Shadow Puppets. They mainly played tracks from their latest EP called “A New Breed.” I particularly enjoyed “Validate Me,” as well as “How Far Can You Push A Man?,” and “List of Enemies.”

The songs are good, but they do lack creative lyricism. “Validate Me,” falls into a trap of on-the-nose writing, despite being an all-around nice track. “I’m at war with myself,” is the repeated line. “With myself and everyone else.” 

The song “Dogs,” deals with a straight-forward story about the protagonist being a needy mutt that wants attention from its owner, which is a baffling choice of themes for a project that mostly deals with ideas of self worth and success. Still, what they lack in poetry, they make up for with energy. 

After the concert, I did a deep dive on the band, which is where the brotherly aspect comes in. Of course the drummer and the guitarist were fighting for supremacy, they’re related. That sort of competition could only be familial in nature. 

Adam and Jack Hope, who are respectively on guitar and drums, are the front men of the band. Their long-time friend Tom Booth joins them on bass. They emerged on the scene in 2019 and quickly rose to notoriety for their explosive live stage presence. People came to their shows for gritty and powerful percussive experiences, as well as their angry and insistent sound. 

Here, everything began to click for me. The music was the performance. Part of the nature of their art was the nature of the show. Or, that’s what they relied on to build their fanbase and fame. Lyrics don’t matter as much when someone is putting their entire energy source to the spectacle of an incredible drumming performance, and Jack Hope seems to either recognize that fact or feed upon it. Maybe Adam recognizes this, too, but can’t match his brother’s animation and vivacity. That would explain the origin of their tense and combative, almost attention-seeking style of playing. 

This raised the pressing question for me about performance and authenticity. I couldn’t help but think of the band The Replacements, whose similarly loud and explosive style initially made a name for them. When they came on stage, the audience didn’t know if they were going to see a life-changing set or see a drunk leading man Paul Westerberg and his bandmates flounder around and ditch their original tracks for cover songs from bands like T. Rex, Big Star, and KISS. At the core was unpredictability, energy, and heart. 

The Pale White might on the surface seem to be on a similar level, minus the drunkenness. Jack and Adam’s powerful presence ensures the crowd will be continuously entertained. But their heart doesn’t lie in the same place as the Replacements. 

The Replacements are remembered for their yearning songwriting, their themes of being lost in the world, of growing up, of being a young and wild kid searching to form their identity. Songs like “Androgynous,” reinforce these ideas, with lyrics like “Here comes Dick, he’s wearing a skirt…Mirror image, see no damage, See no evil at all,” that describe the search for belonging and being true to yourself. 

They will be remembered aside from how they performed. I can’t say the same for The Pale White. There has to be something more sustainable at the core of a band, something more solid and real that people can relate to. I’m not sure people will resonate with The Pale White beyond being impressed by Jack’s talent and walking away knowing they were captivated the whole time. 

I hope to see The Pale White settle into their potential. If they keep playing like this, I anticipate they’ll burn out into obscurity and exhaustion. You don’t need to rely on having crazy live shows to have fans. Trust your audience to appreciate your craft, your sound, and your musicianship. There is merit in stepping back, taking a deep breath, and presenting yourself with vulnerability as yourself instead of covering it with noise and chaos.

By Wordgirl

Between her time making playlists for future DJ sets, Wordgirl loves to watch movies and read books. You can find her hanging out with her cat, Mouse, and playing music too loud in her headphones.