I’ve been to countless arena shows over the years, and some of them have been truly spectacular. It doesn’t matter how many I do, though, not one has ever beaten the feeling of packing into a tiny little sweatbox and seeing a great band smash out a fantastic set. Which is why tours like the one The Wonder Years have just finished up round the UK are so special.
In Glasgow, they are playing in one of the sweatiest venues on the planet and Stereo is already roasting by the time Maycomb are half way through their set. Due to train issues, I miss most of it but the half I do catch sees them playing some solid alternative rock. Considering they admit that they’ve barely seen each other for the last nine months and that The Wonder Years pulled them out of hiatus to do this show it’s an accomplished set. I don’t feel like I saw enough to judge fully so check them out yourself.
Confession time, if you walk out by yourself with an acoustic guitar at a gig, then there is a decent chance I will fall in love with you. It’s what first attracted me to Frank Turner and over the years it has happened time after time. The one time I went to the Revival Tour I needed cold showers for a week to get over it. Even with that particular weakness in mind, Laura Stevenson is wonderful. It is a damn shame then that standing half way back most of the people around me don’t seem to think that maybe shutting up and giving their attention to the person on stage pouring their heart out might be an idea. The disrespect oozing out of a part of the audience as they prattle on means I have to strain to hear her as she sings songs about love and depression. This is by no means unique to a Wonder Years crowd, but it makes it no less frustrating.
Despite that, from what I hear Stevenson’s heartbreaking songs are worthy of your time and hopefully she’ll be back playing in venues where people know when to shut up. It does make it all the more satisfying when some members of The Wonder Years join her on stage, and the added oomph lets her drown out the twats. Plus it proves that if she ever decides to front a rock band, she’ll do a damn good job.
The crowd aren’t silent for The Wonder Years either, but it’s a very different kind of noise. It feels like every word is sung back at them as they thrash through a set of incredible songs. Once again because of train issues – Scotrail strikes to be exact – I miss part of the show as I slip out after ‘Cigarettes and Saints’ but even that doesn’t put a downer on the night. From the moment they drop from ‘Brothers &’ into ‘Cardinals’, this is a band dancing on top of a top hat.
There’s an interesting dynamic between the old and new here. The tracks from No Closer to Heaven aren’t really pop-punk but are more what happens when pop-punk grows up and as someone who got into the band on that album, I was intrigued/slightly worried as to what the older stuff would sound like. However, I needn’t have worried. The Wonder Years are a pop-punk band, but songs like ‘Local Man Runs Everything’ and ‘The Devil in my Bloodstream’ are in the mind of this pop-punk sceptic too good for the term. This is a band who write enchanting music and when the fans know every word to ‘Living Room Song’ (which is apparently a B-side) you know they are doing something right.
The Wonder Years are one of those bands that remind you why you love music. They write songs that speak to the heart and after time in their company, the world seems a better place. Even having to disappear with half an hour remaining I saw more than enough to know that this is a special band, and you can bet when they come back and play those bigger venues I’ll be there as well.