Whitley: Gig review

17 August 2010

Written by: Jean Kemshal-Bell

After years of song writing and performing, Lawrence Greenwood, better known as Whitley, brought it all to a close on Friday night in front of an adoring crowd at Melbourne’s Hi-Fi Bar. What felt more like a going-away gathering, the gig was sentimental as fans said farewell to the 25-year-old Australian artist who made his mark on indie-folk music.

His first album ‘Submarine’ released in 2007, and follow-up album ‘Go Forth Find Mammoth’ released two years later, saw Whitley granted recognition of large proportions. Yet, when he entered Hi-Fi’s dimly-lit stage following the supporting act ‘Seagull’ – a Melbourne-based trio who have a strikingly similar vibe to his own – he broke all boundaries between artist and fan.

With a humble wave hello, Whitley started striking up conversation with the close-to-sold-out crowd. Audience members began to shout song requests at the solo performer, to which he replied, ‘That’s an old one. I think I’ve forgotten it.’ Although much of his audience interaction received laughs, it was clear he was quite emotional.

The gig took a chronologic structure, beginning with his self-confessed ‘first ever written Whitley song’. The crowd was on foot, with many couples using the intimacy of the gig as a time for romance. Whitley sat still on a wooden stool for his entire acoustic intro, providing a warming synopsis on each track. With each strum of his guitar he transported the crowd back through his musical journey, drawing upon all the ups and downs. All stood in awe as he asked for no speaking during his set, a discipline to which the crowd attuned with respectful silence.

After a short intermission, he was back on stage, this time with his band. Without delay, electric guitars were blazing and drums were echoing to the tune of ‘Killer’, his most recent song, which gave the audience a hand-clapping, head-bopping experience. This was followed by a chain of Whitley classics including, ‘Head First Down’ and ‘Poison in Our Pockets’, a track dedicated to his parents, who were only metres from the stage.

‘This is a really sad song,’ Whitley warned before diving into his next chain of tracks. The melancholy banter spruiked a myriad thank-yous, as he warned fans to ‘never sign a record contract – just make music and give it to your friends.’

Negativity aside, Whitley called his own encore to end on ‘Lost in Time’, his most famous track, which encapsulated his evocative voice and poignant lyrics, ‘And all I could have been, and all I would have been, was lost in time.’

Before exiting the stage for the final time, he spoke of taking some time off that possibly included returning to study, a novelty for the uni students in the crowd.

It will definitely be a gig marked in the hearts of all Whitley fans, but also one that commends the existence of a genuine song writer with remarkable sincerity.

Lydia Lawrence is a first-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. This is her first piece for upstart.