Roll up, roll up, fan boys and fan girls, for a lesson in emo aesthetics and electro-pop. After making the ascent into the windowless attic that is the Academy, the teenage angst is almost palpable as SWIMMING GIRLS entertain the gathering crowd of edgy fans. With the scene developing like a Tim Burton creation, the moody and brooding support act deliver their sounds with a fluidity that chimes with the front row inhabitants. Penultimate track Back Of Your Car breezes through the thick air, followed by the roar of Tastes Like Money, reminding the crowd that Swimming Girls are here and definitely ones to watch.
As the energetic indie-pop four-piece exit the stage, ripples of impatience emanate from the fans as they wait for their Manchester-based champions to take the helm. Looking around the Academy, I can’t help but wonder whether Robert Smith of the Cure is sat behind a face-painting stall recreating his pop culture image, or the majority here tonight are just paying homage to PALE WAVES’ poster girl and vocalist, Heather Baron-Gracie. Suddenly, there’s a break in the low murmur of muttering and ignorable background music. The lights cut and all in attendance are still. An electro buzz grows and grows into an almost unbearable volume, then drops as the band enter.
Opener Television Romance gets Pale Waves on the front foot from the start, with a familiar chorus to get everyone hooked and in the mood for what wonders lie ahead. As the black silhouettes move around in front of their red background (drawing comparisons to the artwork of their newly released album My Mind Makes Noises), the band receive a mixed reception when announcing their geographical origins. They then proceed to get their fans back onside with a flurry of popular choices such as Kiss and Eighteen, resulting in a collective catching of breath. With Baron-Gracie’s approach to performance resembling that of a ragdoll, the pace slows and lighters come out. As the genuine fire hazard continues, it’s nice to see the sentiment has been properly received, but all too quickly, as Noises (a crowd favourite) rings around the walls; lighters are rapidly swapped for the recording feature of numerous smartphones, leaving many to witness this track through digital means.
With the closing of the set consisting of Obsession and There’s A Honey, Pale Waves have set the bar high when talking in terms of electro-pop. They leave the crowd feeling re-energised and filled with hope that a once-proud genre of music may continue to see a meaningful resurrection. With their melancholy lyrics, yet upbeat and fanciful music, the formula seems to be a winning one among this young and hungry audience.