HANNI EL KHATIB & WHITE DENIM - SYDNEY - 07.01.14
Sydney was smashed with some serious American talent this week when Hanni El Khatib played a sold out show with White Denim at The Factory Floor. One brought the grime and the other some jazz - both meeting in the middle with some bad-ass blues rock.
First up was White Denim, the jazzier of the two. The audience reacted particularly well to the Texan four-piece and the small room was filled with a pretty special kind of energy. With old and young tapping away, they had the crowd from start to finish.
As soon as lead singer, James Petralli, wiped the sweat from his forehead, smoothly removed his spectacles and placed them in the top pocket of his shirt - it was clear they meant business. With one of the funkiest bass players we have ever witnessed, a vocalist who possessed the widest range, a tall Buddy Holly on guitar and one very enthusiastic drummer - the audience was in awe.
Their bluesy jamming was accompanied by the smoothest of tempo transitions. This wasn’t simply from song to song, but a result of the obscure structure within each song too. White Denim play high energy, jazz-infused-blues-drenched rock and roll; an eclectic recipe for sweet live music carried out in the humblest of ways. Just listen to the below and you’ll get the pace at play.
Speaking of sweet live music, next up was Hanni El Khatib out of California. You couldn’t fault the set musically if you tried. Playing the last set of their 106 show tour - they’ve got this figured out. However, this set lacked a little energy, only to start with. Whether it was lethargy or bad energy from the room dynamics, the first third of the set was undeniably flat.
This didn’t go unnoticed and things began to ‘come alive’ when Hanni pleaded with the crowd -
“I need you to fucking move with us just a little bit. Please, please, please!”
After this request, a trip down into the crowd and a spot of humour from the main man (which only adds to his appeal) the vibe was back where it needed to be.
The powerful pauses built into the majority of HEK tracks are particularly effective in the flesh. Momentarily close your eyes and the album could easily be spinning - sonically it’s near perfection. Broken up by catchy riffs that refuse to escape you, the set was loud, going hard and building momentum until the very end. Skinny Little Girl from the new album was a standout along with a slowed down version of You Rascal You.
Back on for the encore it was just Hanni and his guitar with a slow evocative start to House On Fire - he was in the zone. The rest of the band joined halfway through the song and smashed out a joyous encore of garage rock with enough blues to keep the soul in check.
Other than a weird start for Hanni El Khatib, the night was upbeat, diverse and thrashingly-therapeutic. These are certainly two bands that Australia will be stinging to see a lot more of.
The bar has been set high for the new year of live music - bring it on.