On the 3rd of October Pale Waves ended the UK leg of their tour at the O2 Academy in Bristol. Before even entering the venue, it was clearly going to be an auspicious event. The O2 Priority line was overflowed with keen young fans: a large group held bouquets of roses, and many were dressed to match the band’s gothic aesthetic. When lead singer Heather Baron Gracie conspicuously walked right through the centre of the queues to the front of the box office, clear plastic shopping bag in hand, a flutter of teenagers waved and murmured.
Despite such promises above of a brilliant event, I must admit that the show kicked off in a bizarre fashion. The first supporting act, King Nun, stormed the stage dressed in tattered white t shirts, confronting the audience with shrieking guitars and cocksure swagger. At their best, during songs such as ‘Family Portrait’, they had a vibrant young energy, proving themselves to be a melodic group with lots of potential. During more bewildering moments, the lead singer jumped around, howling wannabe headbangers to a group of head-nodders.
Following King Nun, a more toned down, understated quartet came on stage. All dressed in black, their hair a Cobain-esque blonde. Bristolian band Swimming Girls, led by the phenomenal Vanessa Giménez, gifted us with dark, sultry dream pop. Giménez is a talented lead singer with a deep, smokey voice. At one point, she was the only member of the band onstage, armed solely with a guitar and an exceptional ballad. Swimming Girls reminds you the significance of supporting acts: sometimes, you come out of a concert not only with memories of the headlining act, but with thoughts of a new band for you to look up and obsess over.
you come out of a concert not only with memories of the headlining act but with thoughts of a new band to obsess over
After the stage was completely cleared by roadies, the lightings changed. Synth keys played in an eerie manner. Tension brewed among the crowd. Onstage walked lead guitarist Hugo Silvani, bass player Chris Woods, drummer Ciara Doran, and lead singer Heather Baron Gracie. Ciara and Heather were made up like strikingly beautiful porcelain dolls: their eye make up smoked like a gun, and their lips as dark as their lyrics.
There was a triumphant roar in their presence, brought to crescendo by the opening chords of ‘Television Romance’, one of their most popular songs, during which the fans started throwing roses at Heather’s feet. Queen of her stage, she smiled and thanked them for the roses. The vocal and musical performances were strong; if anything, there was perhaps more energy in the live performance than on the album itself, as songs were embellished by Heather’s showmanship. During songs such as ‘Red’ and ‘Noises’, she moved as though galvanised by strobe lights, somewhere between Michael Jackson and a ragged puppet.
she moved as though galvanised by strobe lights, somewhere between Michael Jackson and a ragged puppet
Songs like the anthem-like ‘Eighteen’, and ‘New Years’ Eve’ amassed a chorus of voices. During ‘One More Time’, Heather stopped singing during the chorus: a sea of index fingers pointed to the sky, referencing that “one more time”, and scream the hook.
The group returned to the stage for an encore, following an agonising 5 minutes, and the show, as well as their UK tour, ended ceremoniously with a mosh pit to the sound of hit track ‘There is a Honey’. And at the end of the night, as we all shuffled out, there wasn’t a disappointed face to be seen, and it was clear that Pale Waves had met, if not succeeded, the expectations of many.