Review: Pale Waves

2018's hotly tipped four piece played a slick set that left little room for error at Gorilla, Manchester, 6 March

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Just ahead of International Women’s Day hotly tipped Manchester band Pale Waves demonstrated that rock is no longer a boy’s club with two more female fronted bands filling their support slots.

First up Bloxx, who played to a swelling crowd. Fans pushed to the front and even started mosh pitting as grungy frontwoman Ophelia Booth blasted through a slick alt.rock set with pop sensibilities. Between songs Booth demonstrated her appreciation by praising the crowd and even chatting with some.

Then followed Brighton-based three-piece Our Girl, whose wall of sound brought the tempo down while maintaining the crowd’s attention. Their shoegaze tones were accompanied by frontwoman Soph Nathan’s dreamy vocals. Although their songs weren’t as catchy as the previous band’s, Our Girl’s musicianship didn’t go unnoticed – they’re a talented bunch.

Excitement built among the then-packed crowd for one of the most hyped bands of 2018. With a slow synth build-up, pop-goth vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie and her gang graced the stage. The band gained attention after supporting Dirty Hit labelmates The 1975 on tour last year. Sharing a similar emo-synth pop sound, they have been somewhat nurtured by Matty Healy and co, with the frontman going on to direct their Television Romance video and, in October, Baron-Gracie joined Healy, invoking Robert Smith, on the cover of NME.

Pale Waves are now trying to keep up with the demand. They released their debut EP, All The Things I Never Said, in February this year and, even with a couple of singles from last year to add to their set list they had limited material to actually perform. They introduced a couple of additional songs – presumably from a forthcoming album – to round out a nine-track set. The crowd ate them up.

Considering this was essentially a homecoming gig for the band, there was very little praise from Baron-Gracie for the fans for getting them into this 600 capacity venue and vocal interaction was minimal. But the performance was slick and sounded great, with the crowd singing along to super-polished vocals that showed none of the strain evident in previous live performances, such as at last summer’s Leeds Festival.

There’s a sense that Pale Waves, who played Madison Square Garden with the 1975, haven’t been able to fully find their feet before being thrust into the limelight and the result, sadly, was an air of inauthenticity in their overly structured and staged performance, which left little room for error, spontaneity or personality. If their confidence can catch up with the hype, if they can produce a full album as strong as their singles’ promise, and maintain the support of their labelmates and fans, however, the four piece are certain to go far. No doubt this will be the last time a home crowd gets to see them in a small venue.

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