Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018

Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018Pale Waves @ O2 Institute, 25th September 2018

It’s been a whirlwind year for Manchester’s self-styled “goth-pop” outfit Pale Waves, making countless “ones to watch” lists, touring huge venues and supporting labelmates The 1975.  They are now making headway in the US, culminating in a Top 10 placing back home for their newly released debut album ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ ahead of their biggest tour to date. As such, they’ve amassed a fiercely loyal young fanbase who have made it out in force tonight, and there’s a deafening roar as the lights go down and the stage fills with smoke and strobe lights.

Despite their dark image, Pale Waves’ sound is largely upbeat and opener ‘Television Romance’ is the first of a string of 80s-influenced synth-pop bangers, quickly followed up by singles ‘Kiss’, the crowd singing back every word at the top of their lungs. Frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie performs staccato dance moves when she’s not playing guitar and it’s pretty clear early on that the young audience are enthralled. Introducing ‘Eighteen’ as “a song about being young and in love” is a recurring theme for the band’s lyrical content, with a host of songs about romance and relationships taken straight from the pages of your average teenage diary, which certainly seems to resonate with tonight’s crowd.


As well as a healthy portion of tracks from the album, the band play EP tracks including ‘Heavenly’ and the catchy ‘New Year’s Eve’, both of which are almost drowned out by the excitable crowd and feature some clever Cure-inspired lines from guitarist Hugo Silvani. “You guys are quite rowdy for a Tuesday night!” says Heather before ‘Black’ and a sparse synth-led ‘She’, but Hugo is forced to sit out a couple of songs as he’s not feeling well. Undeterred, the rest of the band carry on as a trio and Heather makes the most of the additional space on the stage to move around whilst playing guitar on old favourite ‘The Tide’. When Hugo does return, he provides some impressive guitar work on ‘One More Time’ and ‘Noises’ before the band exit the stage and the lights blaze intensely. Finally ‘My Obsession’ and debut single ‘There’s A Honey’ close the night in triumphant style. With the crowd reaction it’s hard to believe that this is a band with a debut album only a couple of weeks old, and I’d say it’s very likely that their fanbase will keep growing significantly based on tonight’s performance.

Bristol’s Swimming Girls are excellent in support, hitting many of the same synthpop cues as the headliners but with a darker, more electronic approach that’s reminiscent of a more downbeat Chvrches, mixed with the swirling mellow guitars of Swim Deep. Their set flies by, and the audience seem to appreciate the melodic tracks such as ‘Asking For It’ and ‘Tastes Like Money’ the most. As an introduction it’s a really promising set that I’m sure will have gained the band some more new fans tonight.

King Nun have toured with Pale Waves before, when both bands played alongside Superfood on their record label Dirty Hit’s package tour last year. Their noisy grunge-rock takes some of the audience by surprise when they launch into ‘Tulip’, but it marks an excellent set full of energy with cavernous drums and screeching guitars. Sending out a nod to Black Sabbath, the band also have a melodic side that shows up best on ‘Chinese Medicine’ and ‘Sponge’, and when mixed with the noisy unpredictable numbers such as set-closer ‘Speakerface’ they’ve got a solid base of songs to work with. Jumping around excitedly, frontman Theo is great to watch and by the end of their performance the audience seem largely impressed.

Most importantly, all of the bands tonight have youth on their side and it’s clear that there’s still a lot of potential to be unlocked. What is clear is that these are artists on the up, and I fully expect them all to go from strength to strength in the near future.

Reviewer: Ian Paget

Photographer: Ian Dunn

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