Pale Waves – O2 Guildhall, Southampton – 2nd October 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Brighton may have to wait until they support The 1975 in the new year to see them again, but indie favourites of the moment, Pale Waves, dropped in just up the South Coast and showed why they have been provoking so much love and attention recently. Bringing two other bands with plenty of buzz under their belts along for the ride, it was an evening that promised much. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

First up, fellow Dirty Hit-ters, King Nun. Riotous, fun, shambolic round the edges, this short set shows everything that the London band have already got a reputation for. It’s not always easy for a band to open for such an already-iconic band as Pale Waves, especially when their musical roots are in a different, harder category. However, there is nothing to fear here; the moment that singer Theo Polyzoides perched on top of a speaker during the last song was the perfect metaphor for their own rapid rise.

Following them are perhaps the revelation of the night, Swimming Girls. Obviously closer in musical style to the headliners, their combination of catchy melodies and glacial synths evoke the same spirit of 80s nostalgia, particularly on ‘Beneath You’ and ‘Back Of Your Car’, which feel like anthems in the making. Bathed in golden light, the band themselves look fantastic and it would be no surprise to see them catapulted into the mainstream with the same rapid results very soon.

It’s no surprise that, following a blinding strobe show, the stage is drenched in blood red light for much of the main event. The screams that erupt as the Manchester band amble onto stage is deafening, and it’s apparent that much of the front row have followed them from city to city. The opening bars to ‘Television Romance’ only heighten that, singer Heather Baron-Gracie all wild eyed and twitchy, rag-doll movements. Much like their debut smash My Mind Makes Noises, the set is front-loaded with bangers with that opener soon making way for ‘Kiss’ and ‘Eighteen’.

Pale Waves sit in a unique position presently. Lauded by indie magazines, adored by fans, it is still easy to forget how new they are – just one album and one EP. That goes some way to explain some awkward inter-song moments where silence descends on the room, Heather being the only band member to interact with the crowd. Yet the crowd couldn’t care less. Musical snobs may turn their noses up at ‘pop’, and while there is absolutely a template that many of their songs work within (such as there is and always has been with many more famous acts), it is the sheer emotion that these four wring out of an audience that sets them apart.

There is something undeniably powerful about seeing a room lose their collective minds, and that is just what happens during the likes of ‘Red’ and ‘One More Time’. Only missing (understandably) ‘Karl’ from the setlist, the night is fast-paced, frenetic and a perfect advert for the power of pop. Finishing off with the uber-banger ‘There’s A Honey’, it’s a consummate night from the band of the moment.

Jamie MacMillan

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