Live Review: Pale Waves at SWG3

English Gothic indie pop band Pale Waves have really been making ‘waves’ in the industry this year. Fresh from a summer filled with festivals and shows worldwide, and on the wake of the release of their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, they are currently embarking on their biggest headline tour to date.  We headed down to SWG3 to catch them on opening night.

Upon arriving outside the venue, I was met with a queue of at least two hundred people, if not more. The variety of punters was astonishing, everything from young teenagers adorned in glitter, bold outfits and thick black eyeliner, to older ‘metal heads’ in denim jackets covered with ‘Metallica’, ‘Iron Maiden’ and ‘AC/DC’ patches and everything in between. I suddenly felt under-dressed. However, there was a real buzz around the venue and it was fantastic to see such a diverse group of people excited about one band.

The main reason I arrived so early was to catch the first support of the evening, King Nun, as they were due to start ten minutes after doors. Finally stepping inside the venue, I was met with thunderous bass and a piercing snare sound. Watching, I couldn’t help but be impressed by their stage presence and the energy they were exuding. The first few songs were erratic to say the least; whether it was the sound, or nerves on opening night, the wall of sound the band created was harsh on the ear. However, after some questionable audience participation, apparently taught by the prestigious BIMM, the band seemed to settle into the swing of things. I don’t know if it was a case of keeping the hits until last, but by the end of their set, the crowd was really enjoying them.  If you enjoy bands like Slaves, Strange Bones and Pinact, these guys will be for you.

The second support slot came from Swimming Girls. The only way to describe this band is ‘cool’. Their blend of dreamy dark synth pop and retro elements was really fresh and interesting. Vocalist Vanessa Gimenez has tones only comparable to that of Lorde, especially in the lower notes. Combined with haunting synths, that wouldn’t feel out of place on a track from The Cure, and impeccable ability to write a pop chorus, you can’t help but be captivated by them. The band let their music speak for them throughout their performance, the quality of songs captured the audience’s attention without Gimenez needing to fight for it. As the genre goes, dream pop/shoegaze performances are notoriously difficult. In my experience, the audience either fully engage or switch off, yet Swimming Girls took this in their stride and gave an extremely polished, slick performance. This definitely gained them a large number of new fans, myself included.

Just as Pale Waves were due to go onstage, I couldn’t help notice the huge volume of people in attendance. Reading “SOLD OUT” on a poster doesn’t really mean much until you witness the a venue filled front to back, wall to wall. The energy was unreal and the crowd were ready for a good time. As the lights went down, the crowd erupted instantly into a “Here We…” chant. The band took their place and the introduction to lead single and pop hit ‘Television Romance’ begun. As singer Heather Baron-Gracie bounded on stage, the crowd went into a frenzy. Baron-Gracie has clearly been hanging out with The 1975’s Matty Healy too much as she gave some Matty-esque dance moves. But to be honest, it’s hard to stand still to the synthy intro of ‘Television Romance’, it was clear she was living her best life on that stage. This feeling was mirrored by the crowd, echoing every single word back and showcasing some equally questionable dance moves.

Powering through their set list, the energy didn’t drop through album singles ‘Kiss’, ‘Eighteen’ and track ‘Heavenly’ from their EP, All THE THINGS I NEVER SAID. Being the first night of tour, the audience were treated to some firsts; “We’ve never played this live before!” exclaimed Baron-Gracie as they launched into album track and personal favourite, ‘Red’. The tune’s bouncy chorus really got the audience moving. Pale Waves have found a formula that really works for them, producing some of the most interesting new wave pop music in recent years.

The energy is taken down a notch for just a second, a welcome moment of respite with ‘She’, described as an “emo song” by Baron-Gracie. This song is a really special moment in the set.  The instrumentals give the audience a moment to truly appreciate the musicianship of the rest of the band. It also highlights a completely different, more vulnerable side to Pale Waves.

The energy doesn’t stay down for long, as they move eclectically through the rest of their set list, including a mix of new material and some older tracks. As the band leave the stage, the audience clearly aren’t ready to go home, filling the room with screams of “One More Tune…”. The band return for a two song encore of EP track ‘My Obsession’ followed by their biggest hit ‘There’s a Honey’. For the final track, the crowd erupts in full motion, with a large number of people elevated on shoulders, providing the biggest singalong of the night by far.

As everyone begins to leave the venue, the huge smiles across punters’ faces are unmissable. The show can best be described as fun. It’s hard to believe the band are still fairly early on in their career; their stage presence, performance capabilities and sheer talent are that of a band well beyond their years. As I left, I overheard someone say, “Oh well, maybe one more tour before they headline the Hydro” and I couldn’t agree more. They truly deserve it.


By Nathan Matheson  (@Nathan_Matheson)

Photo Credit: Nathan Matheson

Exclusive Strathclyde Telegraph photo set of Pale Waves is here.