Live Review: Waterparks at the Roundhouse, 31/10/23

The chameleonic Texan band showcase their latest era at a triumphant Halloween show

Since bursting onto the scene with their debut album, Double Dare, in 2016, Houston’s Waterparks have been defined by their unpredictability. Switching up their entire creative vision on each new album cycle – even down to the colours of charismatic frontman Awsten Knight’s brightly dyed hair – the trio have become known for their no-half-measures artistic approach and ambitious live shows.

A band who put careful consideration into every aspect of their work – often leaving subtle clues to keep fans eagerly questioning their next move – when Waterparks walk out onstage at London’s Roundhouse on Halloween evening, it’s hard to tell if they’re simply joining in with the festivities or introducing a bold new creative era. The opening show of the band’s UK headline tour celebrating the release of fifth album Intellectual Property, Knight emerges dressed in full papal regalia, a tall mitre perched atop his luminous red hair. To his right stands guitarist Geoff Wigington in black clergy robes, whilst drummer Otto Wood dons a nun’s habit. Elsewhere on the stage, artificial trees sprawl behind replicas of the Venus de Milo statue, as a large crucifix forms part of Knight’s microphone stand.

With little need for introductions, the evening begins with an enchanting rendition of latest album opener ‘ST*RFUCKER’ before 2021 single ‘Numb’ dials up the energy as pyro blasts out from both sides of the stage. Mosh pits opening up across the venue’s floor for throwback cuts ‘Stupid For You’ and ‘Crave’, Knight laughs as he compliments a variety of Halloween costumes dotted throughout the room, with Shrek, the Lorax, and a giant red lobster proving to be favourites.

“You guys did not come to play, you spoil us!” the frontman smiles, before leading a chant for Wigington during his solo on latest single ‘Sneaking Out Of Heaven’. 

A brilliantly tight live band, you certainly wouldn’t feel short-changed watching the trio rattle through their hits for an hour and a half, but Knight’s random between-song chat elevates the evening to a communal experience. Orchestrating crowd singalongs at every turn, after a jaunty two-minute run through of ‘2 BEST FRIENDS’ he proudly FaceTimes his mom, grinning as he announces, “Happy Halloween, I’m the pope!” into his phone screen.

It’s a moment that amplifies the two most important elements of the band’s live show – entertainment and community. Repeatedly encouraging the crowd to look after one another, and celebrating the venue’s security for ensuring their safety, at the end of 2016 track ‘Royal’, Knight removes his in-ear monitors and asks the room to repeat the song’s chorus to him before joyously remarking, “Wow, if we had time, I’d do that for every song!”

Unrelenting in their energy, the crowd opens into two huge mosh pits for the band’s heaviest track ‘RITUAL’ – a song detailing Knight’s religious trauma – before the frontman makes a swift instrument change. Returning with an acoustic guitar to chants of ‘Wonderwall’ – after asking for the audience’s help to figure out the chords – he delivers a short spontaneous cover of the Oasis track, before playing through snippets of ‘Violet!’, ’21 Questions’ and ‘High Definition’ in the form of an acoustic mash-up. After tender ballad ‘CLOSER’ brings the room to a rare silence, Knight expresses his gratitude for everyone who helped the band achieve their first top ten album. 

“You make me feel like Taylor Swift every day!” he quips before the trio ramp up the pace with a one-two punch of 2023 tracks ‘A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH’ and ‘REAL SUPER DARK’, the latter seeing the frontman at his most animated and angry, with its rage-fuelled rap verses. With the crowd momentarily winding down after a frenzied strobe-lit rendition of 2019 single ‘Turbulent’, Knight delivers his final thank you to the room before closing out the night with ‘FUNERAL GREY’. 

The venue floor exploding into a picture of sheer joy, some friends join hands and dance in circles, some crowd surf towards the trio, whilst others simply smile as the Texan band bid their farewell: “We’ve been Waterparks, we’ll see you next time.”

Waterparks continue their UK tour until 24 November – find tickets here.

Photo credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns