“We’re those goths that play pop music,” grins Heather Baron-Gracie. Since they burst into the light with ‘There’s A Honey’ all those months ago, that’s what Pale Waves have been reduced to. Tonight though, they use it like a weapon.
Their debut album has been out for a matter of weeks, covering a lot of ground without ever sounding like anyone else, and it finds Pale Waves still pushing things forward at an alarming rate. From the very beginning the band have been surrounded by excited, noisy chatter. People writing them off as a copy of a copy, or hyping them up as the next big thing, Pale Waves have had to get comfortable in the spotlight and do it quickly.
They’ve done that by embracing it at every turn. They’ve been on the road for almost a solid year now, proving their worth at countless festivals and building connections one on one at headline shows. It’s all led here. Tonight, as they take to the stage at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, they’re in full control. For this brief moment, there’s nothing to outrun, nothing to prove and nowhere to hide. More than a victory lap or celebratory parade, tonight sees Pale Waves stand proud at the top.
They’re not the only ones who’ve done some growing though. King Nun have had a relatively quiet year so far, but they’ve clearly been up to something. They still bound about the stage, pogo sticks on sugar, for the strobe-lit burst of ‘Tulip’ and the schoolyard ruckus of ‘Speakerface’ but their clutch of new songs comes with a more fiery purpose. ‘Chinese Medicine’ dances with a clenched fist, ‘Heavenly She Comes’ flickers between reckless and caring adoration, smudged lines aplenty before ‘Family Portrait’ sees them tender and loving. Burning bright and with a newly polished purpose, this is the best King Nun have ever sounded.
“This is a love song. It’s about being eighteen and in love,” starts Heather introducing ‘Eighteen’ (duh) but like all their songs, it’s more than that. Pale Waves turn their growing pains into open-armed anthems of change and acceptance. Tonight is full of pop songs charged with emotionally driven chunks of the real world. It’s why their rapid ascent has been so grounded. “This is our biggest show yet,” she continues, one eye on their triumph, the other looking to what comes next.
We’ve seen Pale Waves be great a lot recently. Having found a comfort in their performance, their personality has been allowed to shine through and it’s given their anthems of love, loss and heartache an untouchable shine. Tonight though, they find a new level. From the lit match of ‘Television Romance’ that roars into life through the emboldened swagger of ‘Red’, the twinkling drive of ‘Black’ and the hurried dance of ‘Came In Close’, Pale Waves live up to every promise that’s ever been made in their name.
Words: Ali Shutler