You know those bands or artists you just cannot wait to see live; you adore their records; but are left feeling underwhelmed and disappointed when you get to see them at a gig?
Well, for 2,350 Pale Waves fans at a sold out 02 Forum in London on the last date of the UK tour…
That was most definitely NOT the case! Heather Baron-Gracie and her three Manchester band mates, bassist Charlie Wood, drummer Ciara Doran and guitarist Hugo Silvani went out with a big bang on the final night of this six-date trek- more a tsunami than a wave!
There are a few bands out there who put in the graft and the miles, and look like they are breaking through to the arena circuit and much bigger success, but never quite get there.
After three albums and eight years since they formed, for me, Pale Waves are still vastly underrated and Heather Baron-Gracie is one of the very best front-persons of any rock band on the scene right now.
She has the voice, the stage presence, the rock and roll moves and the songs. The band are no slackers either; and there is palpable chemistry between all four of ’em.
The vibe in this Kentish Town gaff tonight was buzzing. The huge queue down the street before doors opened, and then the place rammed to the rafters well before support act Abby Roberts graced the stage, an indication that this was gonna go off big time. And off it flippin’ well went.
Originally booked in to the Brixton Academy, the gig was moved to the 02 Forum for some reason, and as much as the Brixton place is a very nice gig, I felt the gorgeous interior of the Forum was perfect for this band.
The tour opened in Newcastle, before a hometown gig in Manchester at the Albert Hall, then Liverpool, Glasgow, Dundee and tonight’s London spectacular.
Pale Waves deliver 18 songs – including one cover, Dove Cameron’s “Boyfriend” which they did for Radio 1’s Live Lounge recently. A mostly young crowd in tonight; low to mid-20s.
The band take no prisoners from the off and blast into “Lies”, “You’re So Vain” and “You Don’t Own Me”. They leave the title track of their current album, “Unwanted” – which is a fantastic track to my ears – until much later, before the last two of the main set: the brilliant “Reasons To Live” and “The Hard Way”.
Heather says “The Hard Way” is very close to her heart. She doesn’t expand on this, but the song is about someone who took her own life when they were both at school together. All the stage is dark with two spotlights at the back, just Heather with Hugo on acoustic guitar, before the rest of the band come back for the second half of the song.
The crowd explodes at the first chords of “Television Romance” and “18”, songs # four and # five in the set. For the track “Change”, Heather dons pink cowboy (cowgirl?) hat and acoustic guitar and the band join in on full steam.
Before sole cover of the night, “Boyfriend”, Heather asks the fans to raise their hand…”If you’re a girlfriend who dragged her boyfriend along tonight!” One girl who raised her arm gets picked from the crowd and Heather invites her onto the stage.
Emily, who is there with boyfriend Jack, takes a seat on stage and Heather tells her she is going to be her girlfriend for the night, as the song starts. Heather dishing out red roses to Emily during the song.
The very well deserved encore offers up two songs: “She’s My Religion” – Heather waves an LGBT+ flag during the song and kneels down front of stage to kiss her girlfriend, who is a photographer in the pit shooting the gig – and then the fantastic “Jealousy”.
At the end of the final song and with the band still playing, Heather leaps off the stage and stands on the barrier and gets hugged by some of the fans at the front.
There’s a frenzied grab for guitar picks and drum sticks lobbed into the crowd as the band leave the stage.
The shouts, screams, stamping of feet and yells for yet more, just about as loud as an arena crowd of four times the size of tonight’s attendance.
Before that last song, Heather tells the crowd, “You guys in the front row look thirsty, we should get you a drink”, before bassist Charlie grabs a bottle of fizz and showers the front row in Formula 1 Grand Prix winner’s-podium fashion.
Referring back to what I said earlier in this review about bands not quite breaking through to much bigger success, despite lots of critical acclaim and a loyal fan-following, if live performance is anything to go by and the quality of current songs/album, Pale Waves’ star is surely still very much on the ascent and those big arenas await very soon. (See full set list, below…)
- Before the main course, we have a tasty starter in TikTok star Abby Roberts. A bonkers 17 million followers to her TikTok account. Abby is a beauty influencer, famous for her makeup videos. But music was there there for her before her social media fame, and she is unquestionably a formidable and credible pop/pop-punk act, before anyone writes her off because of her current day job and main earner.
Leeds-based Abby has a good voice, decent material, lots of energy and charisma; and with a following like she has, got to be a sure-fire bet for big success with her music endeavours. Joined tonight for a tight 30-minute set by drummer, bassist and guitarist.
Penultimate song of eight, “bandaid” (stylised one word and lower case) was penned by Abby for her best friend who was struggling with mental health issues. Abby tells the crowd tonight, “We should talk about it more”, and invites everyone to turn on their torches on their mobiles and light up the room. See the video for the song, below.
Abby was a good fit for opening act tonight, the Pale Waves fans enjoyed it, and I for one, want to go see Abby in her own right asap next year.
PALE WAVES SET LIST (London):
2. You’re So Vain
3. You Don’t Own Me
4. Television Romance
6. Fall to Pieces
13. There’s a Honey
15. Reason To Live
16. The Hard Way
17. She’s My Religion
Photos by Andrea Bottino
Words: Steve Best and Andrea Bottino