8th March | Thekla
A really quite vast demographic makes up the audience for tonight’s sold out headline show of Pale Waves, as part of DIY Magazine’s Class of 2018 Tour. While cult-like fans are decked out in homage to the style of their already beloved band and have set up camp at the front of the stage, there is a mixture of young teens and inquisitive middle-aged adults who have turned out to see one of Britain’s fastest-rising bands of this current moment.
It raises the question of whether industry hype also has the monopoly over live audiences’ interests, the word-of-mouth buzz equating to tickets sold and records purchased by the listener, rather than them delving into something different and perhaps unique to their tastes off their own back. Pale Waves go some way to answering that question here tonight.
As they have done throughout the nationwide, sold-out tour for DIY, Bloxx open the show with a pleasantly surprising set, considering their previous release of a couple of so-so singles. It turns out to be the highlight of the night. While their recorded sound is comfortable, live they show a little more vigour and enthusiasm in what they do, and the melodic nature of their music comes much more to the fore. It’s a sharp introduction to the group, ‘Coke’ retaining its spiralling, intense anxiousness live by making everything sound a little harsher around the edges. Bloxx don’t forgo their aim to sound comfortable and attractive, but live that sound is escalated with greater purpose.
Our Girl, who going into the show tonight certainly had the most promising output, are on and gone in a little under half an hour, and sadly the rush is felt throughout their set. While the trio spin through their tender but driven sound, the sense that the tracks aren’t given the full time to really let loose hangs over the set, perhaps a desire to sound direct sacrificing the more benevolent nature of their songs. The band are quaint and humble to the crowd, always flashing smiles and nods to each other, making it all the more engaging to watch them embracing what they are doing. Together they sound huge as well, their songs rounded out by wonderfully resonant distortion and vigorous drumming.
So to Pale Waves, who after a full half-hour set-up, slide onto the stage and straight into their big single, ‘Television Romance’. The amount of reverb that rings through their sound can almost belie their ability; at some points it almost seems like they are miming from the lingering delay and really saccharine production. It’s such an intricately thought-out set, everything sounding just as it does on record, with little room to move within.
Heather Baron-Gracie offers the group’s sense of personality as the group rattle through, the guitarist breaking out with sporadic hand shapes while they embrace the obsessions and anxieties of youth through their music. It’s tracks like ‘My Obsession’ that offer something substantial, the fact they embrace the feelings their intended audience face is endearing and clearly an act of empathy, and for it they have practically every word of the set sung back to them.
A lot of hype is laid to rest upon the release of a debut album, but for those new to the next big band, perhaps live shows should be considered as the same judgement marker. If that would be the case, Pale Waves, on evidence of their show tonight at Thekla, certainly have the already passionate fan base to warrant breaking barriers, but don’t possess the powerful punch or personality themselves to truly suggest they will leave an impression on pop’s current template.