When Louisville’s White Reaper rolled into Boston this past Thursday, they came with guns blazing, ready to defend their self-proclaimed title as the World’s Best American Band. Touring their second full length album, The World’s Best American Band, White Reaper did in fact do the title justice.
The night got off to a slow start with Rival Island. The Boston-based indie pop group were out of place in the heavily rock-centric bill. Almost everything about the band’s sound translated as generic: the vocals, the drumbeats, even the chords for every song were more or less the same and played identically by both the lead and rhythm guitarist resulting in little variation. It might suffice in the mainstream alt-pop scene, but didn’t carry its weight in this otherwise dominant bill.
Post Animal, however, delivered with both energy and some heavy hitting tunes. Listening through the Chicago five-piece’s acid-drenched psych rock, you’d expect a mellowed-out experience live. But Post Animal took their psych rock and put it on steroids: the sound was still very much vibey, especially with three guitars playing dreamy riffs simultaneously, but it also leaned into some heavier, more aggressive influences. Tracks from their set included “When I Get Home,” “Special Moment,” and “You Were Not There.”
Moving from Post Animal’s hazy, layered aesthetic to White Reaper’s newfound love for the arena rock sound may have initially seemed like a weird transition, but because of the similar level of high energy, it was flawless. White Reaper’s presence filled up the entire venue from the moment they leaped onto stage. Singer and guitarist Tony Esposito stood in a power stance as he played classic rock-esque riffs of songs like “Eagle Beach, while bassist Sam Wilkerson stood atop the monitors pointing his bass straight up into the rafters of Brighton Music Hall.
When the band launched into “The World’s Best American Band,” White Reaper carried such a rock ‘n’ roll attitude and aura that you could believe the title in that moment. It garnered a raucous response from the crowd in the form of a mosh pit and echoes of the chorus lyrics “lace your boots and crush your pills” lead by Esposito.
Their popular single, “Judy French,” produced a similar surge of crowd energy, partially due by Esposito’s orchestration of the crowd’s movement. “Form a circle and then walk around all sassy like,” he said followed by Hater’s yelling over the crowd noise “What song do you think it is?” Before anyone got a chance to answer, White Reaper launched into the arena rock-inspired intro of the single. The circle quickly morphed into a pit, highlighting what was the sonic peak of the night.
White Reaper played through older material like “Make Me Wanna Die” from their full length debut, White Reaper Does It Again, and even reached back to their first EP with “Half Bad” played during the encore.
What made the night stand out was the rock ‘n’ roll antics and attitude of White Reaper. They truly embraced their latest album’s title, and that confidence and edge translated into a fueled performance. But instead of being distant and inaccessible like big name rock stars, they were personable through not only their interactions with the crowd, but also in how they carried themselves on stage: Hater dancing recklessly around about and playing air guitar, a crowdsurfing race to the bar and back between drummer Nick Wilkerson and Esposito, and the friendly between-song chatter. Combine that with the music, and it was a flawless night of rock ‘n’ roll worship.