Live Review: 86TVs //  Lafayette, London, 05.03.24

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The last time I saw Felix and Hugo White they were bowing on stage with their brothers in arms The Maccabees after a triumphant finale gig at Alexandra Palace in front of 12,000 rapturous fans. Seven years later the Whites are on stage and the faces alongside them have changed albeit still familiar. Younger brother Will has joined his two elders on bass, along with Jamie Morrison (Noisettes, Stereophonics) on drums to form the indie rock band 86TVs. The size of the crowd has significantly reduced to an intimate 600 at Lafayette in Kings Cross and I feel lucky to be amongst them. The venue has a typical London feel with exposed brickwork and timber panelling, and the stage is set in the basement which provides wonderful acoustics. 

There is a surprisingly high number of 86TVs t-shirts spotted amongst the herd, although it’s fair to say this isn’t your normal band’s first mini-tour. As such there’s an excited expectancy fizzing across the room. With only four songs publicly available, the crowd is intrigued to hear more. They don’t have to wait long, as the band opts to blast through the first seven unreleased songs first, to allow them to finish on more well-known material.

The show kicks off with ‘Modern Life’ with the three brothers singing in unison which makes for a stunning opener. “Modern life is it not just shouting at machines” is the repeated chorus and the song lyrically relates to questioning the purpose of why we are all here. The band is tight in both a musical and vocal sense, it’s clear they have been playing together for years and are well-rehearsed.

‘Days of Sun’ is a punchy number sung by Will with themes of fighting back against the passing of time. On ‘A Million Things’ Hugo takes the vocal lead and the song has a punkier sound, with a spiky edge albeit overlaid with high notes from Felix’s guitar to elevate the sound. 

Like all good siblings they have learnt how to share fairly amongst each other, the lead vocals are constantly changing for each song, and Felix and Hugo switch between lead and rhythm guitar parts. Felix is the de facto leader (and comedian!) with confidence pouring out as he leads the band through the set.

There is a joyous mood emitting from the band. Felix jokingly asks if there are “any questions at this stage on the new material?” between songs. There is an assurance which is borne out from previous successes and confidence in their new songs. In ‘Someone Else’s Dream’ the sound is a layered garage punk vibe. Shut your eyes and you can imagine the brothers as teenagers rocking out in their bedroom, bouncing off the walls with the high energy the track produces. 

An impressive drum solo from Jamie opens ‘Tambourine’ which wows the crowd. The song is darker in tone than others in the set and is a hard-rocking number. Although Will is leading on the vocals it is noticeable that Hugo sings every word, even if the microphone is not in front of him. Hugo does return to lead vocals for ‘New Used Car’ which has an Americana sound. The lyrics are almost nihilistic in a seize-the-day way: “Nothing lasts forever gotta live for today / and set it on fire we would burn it anyway’ the track builds up to an epic finale, leaving the crowd wanting more. 

The tempo slows for ‘Spinning World’ which strips back to vocals and drums before building a shoegaze guitar sound. The poignant ending is stopped by Hugo three times, due to his guitar being out of tune. Will declares the moment as a “nightmare, which he has experienced before”. The moment is dealt with in good humour, with both the band and audience seeing the funny side, and Felix announcing that what he liked about the Maccabees was that they were always in tune. 

‘Dreaming’ has a pure melancholy melody with wistful lyrics used to describe recreating a moment, albeit the recreation is not perfect and so they are trying to fix it, but it is not possible and it’s too late. It feels like an ode to an ex-lover or someone who is no longer in their life, but they still hold the dream for them. “Did you have to lose someone to find out they have always been there”. The song stands out from the set and is beautifully performed, creating a vision of a dream-like scenario which is replayed through your mind but does not provide the satisfaction you desire. 

Felix screams in joy through ‘Higher Love’ returning the set to a higher tempo after its brief interlude. The song has an irresistible beat with feel-good themes which builds and builds and sets the crowd off pogoing in joy. ‘Worn Out Buildings’ continues the fun, with Felix encouraging the crowd to show some “solid vertical movements”. The song showcases the brothers’ perfectly fitting vocals which naturally complement each other. 

The trio of White brothers’ vocal melodies are striking, naturally harmonising together and it is their secret weapon. It was announced that the recording of the debut album was finished today, and it is clear the band are in the mood to celebrate. The on-stage humour that is sprinkled throughout the show and the camaraderie between the gang is a buzz. 

The challenge for 86TVs is how to successfully step out of the shadow of the much loved The Maccabees. This is not an easy task, however, based on the smiles that were grinning out from both the stage and the crowd, the journey to achieve this will be full of fun. 

Words by Dave Holgado


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