Live review: Pale Waves @ Northumbria Institute

By Matthew Prudham

On 21st October, I had the pleasure of seeing indie-pop newcomers Pale Waves play Northumbria Students’ Union as part of their debut headline tour. After having a few words with the band prior to the show, and seeing lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie appear on the front cover of NME the day before, I was very hyped for the Mancunian four-piece’s show – and they certainly did not disappoint.

Even before the headliners took to the stage, fans were treated to a barnstorming performance by grunge-rock band King Nun – label mates of Pale Waves with Dirty Hit Records. My highlight of their set was recent single ‘Hung Around’, which was loud and aggressive with distorted guitars, crashing cymbals, and wild vocal hooks. This made for a fantastic gig experience, as fans were treated to an eclectic line-up of differing musical offerings – varying from the Nirvana-esque tracks of King Nun, to the trippy, dance-influenced sounds of Pale Waves.

With the support act over and the seemingly long half-hour break between the acts complete, our headliners came onto the stage, causing a horde of clamouring fans to push their way to the front of a packed-out dancefloor. As the band burst into their second single ‘Television Romance’, it was instantly clear that lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie has fantastic frontwoman potential: casting out gazes to the fans and echoing calls of “I love you!”, she made it impossible to take your eyes off the band. Her vocals sounded just as great live as on record, and all the dreamy synth effects of the single were brought to life during the live show with the assistance of discotheque lighting. I was also left in no doubt that Pale Waves already had a loyal legion of fans behind them, with seemingly all of the crowd singing along to the lyrics of the chorus –  many of them even knew the verses as well.

Most of the setlist was filled with unreleased songs, but Pale Waves still received a rapturous appreciation from the crowd. My personal highlight from this part of the set was ‘New Year’s Eve’ – their new, upcoming single – which featured extensive guitar solos from Heather and fellow guitarist Hugo Silvani, executed wonderfully to show off their musical skill. Another high point of the show was ‘Heavenly’, a song filled with a fantastic, groovy bass from Charlie Wood, and drumlines courtesy of the majestic Ciara Doran.

After much musical pleasure, we finally came to the last song of this especially dazzling set: fittingly, the band played their first ever release with record label Dirty Hit, ‘There’s A Honey’. On came the disco lighting and up went the arms of the crowd – an inclusive mix of 30-year-old Geordie lads and 18-year-old ‘fangirls’ – as they grooved to the trippy, euphoric sounds of Manchester’s newest breakout act. Having been treated to the final glimpse of Heather, and heard the last of the great cohesion of solid beats and snap snares of Ciara’s drums, everyone rushed over to the merch stand to try and meet their heroes.

All in all, Manchester’s freshest musical export Pale Waves successfully delivered an evening of lush alt-pop music to brighten up a wet and windy Newcastle night. I would even go as far as to say it was the best gig I’ve been to all year.

Photograph: Ian Cheek Press

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