A rainy Friday night in North London and what better way to soothe our dampened spirits than with some shimmering surf-pop sounds…
Thankfully, we arrive at the springy-floored Islington Assembly Hall in time to catch support act Lande Hekt. Though you may know her from her band Muncie Girls, her debut solo album, Going To Hell, was one of my favourites of last year and live, her songs are no less special. Starting off with a few captivating solo offerings, Hekt treats us to beautifully heartfelt songs covering themes ranging from the struggles of coming out, to comforting times with her cat Lola. With a lilting musicality and stirring, luscious vocals, she kicks off our evening with a collection of shimmering soundscapes, all delivered with a raw emotion.
Having been a huge fan of Canadian band Alvvays since falling in love with their self-titled debut album upon its release in 2014, I’m not quite sure why I’ve not yet seen them live, and so it’s with an apprehensive excitement that I await their arrival to the stage – that feeling of having waited so long for something, that you can’t help but worry that it won’t live up to your high expectations…
However, I’m soon to be proved wrong as Molly Rankin and co. take to the stage amidst a sea of adoring cheers filling the packed out venue (it’s the most busy I’ve ever experienced it and I’m a little miffed about being stuck behind one of the tallest people I’ve ever seen, but I’ll try not to dwell on that…). As they kick off the set with the dreamy musicality of second album Antisocialites‘ opening track ‘In Undertow’, I’m instantly immersed in the sparkling splendour of Alvvays’ trademark swirling surf-pop energy. And I feel very lucky to witness the band’s shiny new line-up (with the addition Sheridan Riley and Abbey Blackwell now forming the seamless rhythm section) first hand.
Introducing themselves, Rankin oozes an infectious sense of excitement as she tells us that today is the day of release for their brand new album, Blue Rev, and informs us that the set will consist of some newer songs from the record, as well as “some oldies – gotta include those crowd pleasers too!” before diving into one of said new tracks, ‘Very Online Guy’. With a more synth-driven sound than previous offerings, it fizzes with a whirring energy alongside Rankin’s rippling crystalline vocals.
And from new to old as the band flow smoothly into the first track from their 2014 debut, ‘Adult Diversion’. Propelled by lilting hooks and a buoyant, uplifting energy, the large crowd sway along with a joyous sense of unity to Rankin’s luscious vocal tones, as the raw power of Riley’s thrashing beats shines through. Twinkling with a whimsical allure, ‘Plimsoll Punks’ proves to be another crowd favourite before perhaps the band’s most famous song ‘Archie Marry Me’ sees each and every one of us sing along to each and every word, and I find myself getting quite emotional; the track’s dreamy grace and twinkling romanticism holding a special place in my heart (it was even featured on my wedding playlist), and – despite not being able to see the stage – live, it is every bit as beautiful as I could have hoped for.
Interspersed between the shimmering musical offerings, Rankin interacts with the crowd, oozing an endearing charm – apologising for her lack of vocal strength which is feeling strained as they come to the end of their tour, and receiving mixed reactions as she shares that she was going to wear an Arsenal jersey to the show. However, despite her apologies, her vocals glisten with a soaring majesty throughout truly captivating renditions of ‘Dreams Tonite’ and ‘Party Police’ to draw the set to a close.
After we cautiously make our way to the back of the room, Alvvays return to the stage for a very welcome encore of old favourites. After the sparkling emotion of ‘Atop A Cake’ shimmers with a scintillating allure, the band offer the final track of the night, another one from their debut album, ‘Next Of Kin’ – a perfectly euphoric way to end what has been a blissfully exquisite experience (and it seems my apprehension of being disappointed was totally unfounded).
Photo Credit: Eleanor Petry