Review by Charlie Tennant, Photography by Robert Barrett
Manchester’s female-fronted goth-pop quartet are back in the Midlands, with a whole new confidence.
It’s been a year since Dirty Hit’s Pale Waves released their critically acclaimed debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, and the group are showing no signs of slowing their ever-growing confidence. Playing a large smattering of shows since the album dropped, it sounds like the act have gone from strength to strength, refining their sound at every show. Having seen the foursome only a month ago at a festival, I was already excited for their headline show, but from the minute they swaggered onto the mesmerisingly colourful, laser-clad stage, we were taken on an unanticipated journey of emotions and musical exploration.
Opening with ‘Eighteen’, lead singer, Heather Baron-Gracie confesses her young love for someone she could confide in, over a catchy, New Order esque, synth-laden tune that has the crowd moving from the off.
Blasting through a handful of tracks from their debut album, Pale Waves begin to take us through their very own world. ‘The Tide’ was next up; an evocation of gothic romanticism plucked fresh from their 2018 EP, ALL THE THINGS I NEVER SAID. It seems clear that the Manchester quartet’s close friendship with Matty Healy of The 1975 is easily discernible from the very start of this masterpiece. Baron-Gracie serenades the audience tonight through this catchy number. Much like The 1975, it’s evident that Pale Waves already appear to bear an eminent ability to perfectly pull in support from the edgy indie lot as well as having the mass appeal that will likely drive them into the mainstream charts, sooner rather than later.
“Who wants to hear a new song?”, Heather asks her enchanted audience. Already anticipating the answer, we become the second crowd in the world to hear the quartet’s new track, “Tomorrow”. A pop-punk driven track with lyrics that seem to tackle the horrors of living in the suburbs where society doesn’t seem to understand you. “Cause there’s always tomorrow to get you by, get you by,” sings Baron-Gracie in the mesmerising chorus. “Tomorrow, won’t you stay alive? Give it one more try – won’t you stay alive?”
Appearing alone on stage, donning the acoustic guitar, Heather announces that the next track “means a lot to me” as she begins to play “Karl”. A heart wrenching tribute to her grandad, who passed away when Heather was just fourteen. As such, this lyrically grieving track explores, with dexterous maturity, the emotions surrounding losing a loved one. “I miss you so much” were the haunting last words Baron-Gracie left a weeping audience as the lights faded to darkness and the room went silent.
Returning to stage with catchy and barrier-breaking ‘Noises’, the act explore Heather’s world. The lead singer once declared that the track is “about dealing with how you look, you feel, the pressure of everyone else these days telling you how to look, what to say, don’t make a wrong move. It’s about a lot of things and a lot of my issues that have been thrown into one. It’s a very, very dramatic song.” Despite the dark exploration of her own self, the catchy tune has everybody dancing once again.
Bringing the night to a comfortable end, the long awaited debut single, ‘There’s A Honey’ was the set closer tonight. A funky, Eighties-inspired indie-pop track oozing an amicable amount of energy comparable to how they began the night. Bringing things home with its mesmerising, layered synth approach fused with a cheery, guitar sound.
Despite only having a small catalogue of tracks to their name so far, Pale Waves continue to demonstrate a maturity in finding a unique identity even their infancy. Providing 80s inspired synth-laden tunes mixed with a dark, ethereal guitar-driven sound, combined with Baron-Gracie’s oozing confidence, with a sincerity that’s hard to dismiss.
(The original version of this article was first published on Gig Junkies http://www.gigjunkies.com/band-reviews/pale-waves-at-o2-academy-birmingham-uk-24th-september-2019/)