It’s a calm and pleasant evening down Manchester’s Oxford Road, and Alvvays are performing in Academy 2 of Manchester University’s Student Union building as part of their full UK tour. Most students haven’t moved in yet, so it’s significantly less frantic than usual. Academy 2 is a lage room, with a capacity of 900 people and with tickets almost sold out, this could be a great gig.
Tonight’s support band is White Reaper, who I thought, when listening to some of their recordings, were a garage fuzz synth band. That’s what tracks like ‘Cool’ and ‘Last 4th of July’ conveyed to me, anyway. However, White Reaper’s live show was more like a tame classic rock imitation, or lame punk. Dressed all in black, the guys’ head bang to a 3-note synth melody and unfortunately this odd imbalance is the formula for most of the songs. It’s as though a roadie has lost their distortion pedal. There’s nothing to it, no edge or excitement.
There are superb fragments of the set, but all the elements don’t quite fit together. It’s a rarity that I’d recommend recordings over a live set, but that is the case for White Reaper. Unless, of course, you want to see a bass player sat on a keyboard player’s shoulders, that was the highlight.
It’s a short wait before the beloved Alvvays enter the stage. ‘Adult Diversion’ immediately gains the crowd’s attention. Molly Rankin’s strong yet vulnerable vocals project across the large room but so gently, as though the words are trickling into my eardrums “if I should fall, act as though it never happened”.
Alvvays perform with such fervour; it’s a ramp up from their self-titled debut album recording but without losing its innocent quality. The crowd react with equal passion, teens in pits by the barrier and warbled yells greet each new song. The band perform ‘The Agency Group’ to ‘Ones Who Love You’ with effortless charm, Alvvays have perfected their craft and it seems so easy. Next is the remarkably catchy ‘Atop A Cake’ with its indiscernible rickety guitars and synth chords, the instrumentation is jangly to the point where it is favourably pleasant and not irritating.
Rankin tells a quick anecdote in which the band had recently met Noel Gallagher, of course a perfect story for a Manc audience. The story entails that someone speaks to Noel and says “this is Alvvays, they really wanna meet you” to which he replies “like the hair product?” There is now a rather odd and awkward silence, probably replicative of the real scenario “erm, no, like the maxi pad”. The crowd including myself proceed to giggle, then apparently Noely G walks away only to turn and say “you’re worth it”.
Singles ‘Party Police’ and ‘Archie, Marry Me’ end the set to tumultuous applause. Alvvays leave but the shouting and cheering continues until Rankin appears back on stage. “You remember this one?” she asks of the crowd before proceeding to perform album-closer ‘Red Planet’ solo. Her voice adds such a beautiful tone to such a melancholic song. One lad decides to get on his mates shoulders in the third row and get his lonely lighter out, and he’s not even put off by people throwing cups at him.
The rest of Alvvays return to play a cover of Kirsty MacColl’s ’85 track ‘He’s On The Beach’. It’s such a seamless transformation for the band, the track is cheery, uptempo and overall such a happy song to end the set with “there’s something in the air, and sunshine everywhere”. Alvvays impressed me more than I ever could have expected tonight, leaving feeling ultimately content.