Canada’s indie darlings play a flawless set of lo-fi pop to make nostalgia feel new again at London’s O2 Forum
Halfway through their set, Alvvays got booed. That’s what you get for mentioning Noel Gallagher’s name at a dream pop gig… To be fair, emotions are running high in Kentish Town – Molly Rankin melting everyone’s reserve with a shimmering set of upbeat melancholy that makes the whole room want to forget about anything and everything else. “I love walking around Camden trying to spot famous people”, laughs Rankin as her Oasis namedrop gets a jeer, “I know, I know… ignorance is bliss.”
As delicate as Alvvays sound, few other bands make music this effortless. They might have three records to pick from now, but it takes a rare kind of confidence to play your new album in its entirety and still make it sound like you’d only played the hits. Last year’s Blue Rev is spread out evenly over the whole night without a single lull; a magic mid-set triptych of ‘Forth Figure’, ‘Archie, Marry Me’ and ‘Pomeranian Spinster’ seeing the band find their perfect moment.
Dancing between jangle, twee, dream and indie pop – part Camera Obscura, part Pavement, part My Bloody Valentine – Alvvays have a knack for making everything they do seem like no one else has ever tried it. Like it’s always (alvvays?) been there.
Playing rawer than they do on the record, the band repeat the trick on every song; lighting new fires under songs from their debut (‘Adult Diversion’, ‘Next Of Kin’) and its follow-up (‘In Undertow’, ‘Dreams Tonite’, ‘Not My Baby’ and the electric pop punch of ‘Saved By A Waif’ that closes the set).
Another revelation is Rankin’s voice. Somehow ever bigger and more intimate here than it sounds through a pair of headphones, her vocals soar over Alec O’Hanley’s perfect trebles with punk screams, fragile lilts and rebel yells that bring everyone a step closer without even trying.
This is lo-fi, high-energy guitar music at its best; pop played for storytelling and atmosphere and abstraction. VHS imagery flickers behind the band for the whole night: ripples playing out across a pool, leaves falling, light flickering through a car window. This is music to get lost in. No one here wants to be anywhere else.
Alvvays play a second night at the O2 Forum Kentish Town on May 25. They also play Bearded Theory and Dot To Dot festivals on May 26-27, before headline shows in Manchester and Glasgow on May 30-31. Find Alvvays tickets here.