Live Review: Pale Waves

Barrowland Ballroom, 23/09/19 

Before the gig even began, I knew that it was going to be a night to remember. Pale Waves at the Barras was always a combination that was bound to create a brilliant atmosphere, and the band certainly didn’t disappoint. 

The gig began with the electropop classic ‘Eighteen’, and frontwoman Heather Baron Gracie is barely audible over the sheer hysteria of the crowd. This excitement continued with the Cure-influenced tune ‘Kiss’. Two songs in, and I had already been dragged into a pit and almost fell flat on my face, but the madness is what made it great. 

There is something about the band’s sound that leaves me nostalgic and, judging by the crowd reaction, I’m not alone with that. Songs like ‘Television Romance’ and ‘The Tide’ utilise blissful melodies that send the audience into a dream-like state. 

Between the big hitters, the band also explore their more gut-wrenching, emotional songs. With ‘Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like To Die)’ – an ode to Heather’s late grandpa – the stage is stripped back as the singer is put under spotlight with an acoustic guitar. Likewise, the ballad ‘When Did I Lose It All?’ includes an epic guitar solo that could challenge the greats. 

Heather’s announcement that Glasgow means a lot to her, as her Dad was born here, leaves a mark on the crowd as there is a mutual sense of love and admiration between the band and the crowd. The city was even treated to the debut of their new pop-punk inspired track ‘Tomorrow’: a tune perfect for modern society, it explores the harshness of growing up in a world so divided. The lyrics include ‘sexuality isn’t a choice’ and ‘don’t listen to society’. Yet, there are glimmers of hope when Heather sings ‘there’s always tomorrow to get you by’. Perhaps that’s why the crowd was so immersed in the performance, because it’s the words they desperately needed to hear. 

Despite sharing the Dirty Hit label with the likes of the 1975, Pale Waves should not be compared. They are unique in terms of sound, stage persona, and crowd reaction. Many critics also often point to Heather’s distinctive voice as a means of criticism. But, for me, that’s a massive quirk of the band. Self-confessed, she isn’t an Adele but her stage presence, meaningful lyrics, and high energy performance make up for that.

And that’s why, straight after the gig, my pal and I booked tickets to their hometown gig in Manchester, jumped on a Megabus, and relived the night for a second time. They really are that good. 

[Grace Richardson – she/her – @headcarz


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