The Wonder Years return to the UK on the first night of their Sister Cities world tour.
On an evening somewhat shrouded by the controversy that surrounding lead support band, Sorority Noise, The Wonder Years reminded us exactly was music is all about. Passion. Luckily enough for me, this was the seventh time that I have seen the band and like a fine wine, I was hoping that they would continue to get better with age. A few whisky and colas (diet, of course) down, it was time for a night I hoped to remember.
AW showed no shyness in discussing topics that are not so easily spoke about here in the UK which immediately gave them fans among the crowd. Everything about this performance was entirely refreshing. Writing sad songs about love, California and even an egg and cress sandwich, AW blew the room away with their solo renditions of the songs normally performed as a whole band. The artist jokingly introduced the message behind each of the little ditties and then unleashed 3 minutes of audible beauty. The set lasted around 30 minutes and I wanted more. Very impressive, I may have found my new favourite sad music.
The Wonder Years
Earlier than anticipated, The Wonder Years took to the stage as the room shut to darkness. I knew what was about to happen and was jealous of anyone seeing the band for the first time. The room was a mix of 16 to18-year-old fans and big, bearded men, I was unsure who was more likely to burst into tears. Having known the experience before, I had brought my own tissues.
I want to split the set up into different stages. First up, the Suburbia era of the band. I was very curious what songs would be cut from the band’s set, seeing as they have just released a new album it is the natural progression for some of the band’s work to miss out. Amazingly, The Wonder Years just seemed to add more songs to account for this. Undoubtedly a highlight of the night, Coffee Eyes was very well received and put a beaming smile on my face. Of course, the band couldn’t be done with Came Out Swinging, this track had been moved from the end of the set to about two thirds of the way through which caught everyone off guard, but they realised in time that there was still plenty of opportunity for the place to be sent into a frenzy. However, one track didn’t make the cut – fan-favourite Local Man Ruins Everything ceased to be included in the night’s proceedings. Thankfully, a very special acoustic rendition of Don’t Let Me Cave In more than made up for it. Soupy exclaimed, before switching the pace of the evening to one a little more civilised, that the UK fans hadn’t had a chance to hear the stripped back reworkings of the band’s latest EP Burst and Decay and that now was the best time to change that. What a treat.
Surprisingly, the band also chose to play Dismantling Summer in this format as well. It was great to hear these stripped-back versions in their most beautiful form, like when I saw blink-182 perform a series of acoustic tracks back in 2012, I felt as though this was a one-time thing. What an experience, the room was electric with voice and every word was sung/shouted back at the band. Whilst I am here, I may as well mention The Greatest Generation tracks that joined this one in the set. The Devil In My Bloodstream has become a staple of the band’s live shows and the iconic “I BET I’D BE A FUCKING COWARD” brought the room back to life after a couple of slower numbers. There, There and Passing Through a Screen Door have still got the wow-factor, sending the room into utter chaos and questionably boasting the biggest sing-a-longs of the night. Additionally, the fast chords that slipped from the stage to announce the beginning of Cul-de-sac was another personal highlight of the set. The finger points and jostling bodies were being flung in all directions to this one. What a song.
No Closer To Heaven is a very close contender to be my favourite album of all time. So, seeing the band perform a number of tracks from this was a pleasure as always. I Don’t Like Who I Was Then and Thanks For The Ride were number two and three in the set. They brought the room to life, the band seemed incredibly happy with the response of the London crowd, taking moments to fully vibe their instruments and throw limbs about on the stage. Cardinals was, of course, a huge moment in the set and brought the sense of unity to life. Similarly, the closing track of the night was Cigarettes and Saints which was incredibly emotional. Every person in the room had spent the past hour, the past 20 songs, the past day travelling to see the band and the eruption of noise in the breakdown was truly special. If you ever get the chance to see this one live, it is special.
Finally, the meat and potatoes. Sister Cities. As you have probably seen over the past 2 months, I have been very complimentary of the band’s latest work and it was an honour to see them play the new tracks live. The set opened with Pyramids of Salt and the room was more than happy to put a smile on the band’s faces by singing back all the lyrics incredibly loudly. It Must Get Lonely got a similar reaction, again with the Philadelphian’s choosing to have a little shimmy on the stage during the natural musical interludes of the song. We Look Like Lightning was a little less well received, it was still performed incredibly tightly, however, I feel as though the crowd were a little less aware of this one as it wasn’t one of the singles. Sister Cities shocked me as it got some of the most aggressive movement on the night, it was a sea of jolting bodies. Clearly, this one has a struck a nerve with The Wonder Years’ fan base. The main part of the set came to a close with The Ocean Grew Hands To Hold Me which, for me, was the triumph of the evening. The lyrics to this song are impeccable and, even without their inclusion, the song is gorgeous. Being a longer number, once Soupy had concluded his duties he stormed from the stage to leave the band to have their moment in the sun. This song is wonderful and once it gets some more traction it will be an incredible set closer.
What’s next? Well, with two sold-out London dates under their belt (notably, the first night selling out in under two hours) I would like to see the band bridge some larger venues. I think it is their time, having seen them at KOKO last year and Scala the time before that, surely, they are ready to take the leap. Can you just imagine, The Wonder Years at Brixton Academy…?