“Brighton tonight, where it all began”, so said Dream Wife on Twitter before their homecoming gig at Concorde 2. Indeed the birthing ground of the group, having formed at Brighton University originally as an art project, the trio brought some art-punk magic to the iconic seaside venue. Playing their first Brighton headline set since the release of their terrific eponymous debut album, it’s difficult to describe Dream Wife as anything other than vital, fierce and political luminaries.
Opening on the special night were two-piece ARXX, who won Dream Wife’s open call asking female identifying and non-binary fronted music projects to join them on their headline tour as support. Similar to fellow Brighton band Sit Down, the group create a raucous sound, but also explore country. ‘Stuck on You’, in particular, from their Daughters of Daughters EP, has all the hallmarks of a country classic. Laid-back guitar riffs, and husky vocals, it made for a refreshing change.
Main support on the night, and for the whole tour, were Liverpudlian punk band, Queen Zee. Having impressed us with an exceptionally frenetic show at The Prince Albert earlier in the year, it was hard not to be impressed all over again. Strident and rasping, much of the theatrics come from lead singer Zee, who is an energetic presence on stage throughout. With a bizarre cover of ‘Bonkers’ and opening a circle pit for “ballroom dancing”, it’s clear that Queen Zee don’t adhere to rules or conventions.
I’m a sucker for a band arriving onstage to an ironic, tongue-in-cheek number so Dream Wife arriving to a mashup of Sophie Ellie Bextor’s ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ and 2 Unlimited’s ‘Get Ready For This’ had me hooked from the start. Unsurprisingly, with early outings for the likes of early single ‘Lolita’ and Dream Wife lead single ‘Fire’ brought the tenacity and composure to tackle venues of this magnitude. It’s easy to forget just how many cracking, ear-worm heavy tracks the trio have at this point, and the likes of ‘F.U.U.’ and ‘Let’s Make Out’ had the crowd in raptures.
Most impressive, however, is lead singer Rakel Mjöll’s intense, hyperactive on-stage antics. Prowling from left to right of the stage, and constantly on the move making profound eye contact with the front section of the audience, there’s a wild energy to her performance that’s incredibly captivating. Vocally, too, she was incredible. Spiky, ferocious, and cutting, there’s more than a little bit of legendary frontman Mark E. Smith about her. Ultimately, she holds the band together and gives them that extra savagery in the band’s performance.
Then, of course, there’s the band’s on-point political stance. Introducing one of their best songs, ‘Somebody’, by bringing, “All the bad bitches to the front” and stating that “gender is fluid”, it’s a genuinely heartwarming moment to see the band using their stature to be incredible role models for their young fans. Creating a warm environment, despite their ruthless and vicious repertoire, Dream Wife have an aura of dynamic and rapid change about them and it’s encouraging and affecting to witness. Whether they’re holding talks before their gigs to create safe spaces, looking after their fans, or performing songs about rape culture, girl power or a celebration of female sexuality, Dream Wife are striving for what all bands should undertake: genuine change.