Alvvays continue to exceed unreasonably high expectations with another captivating set – this time at a sold-out ABC.
The Toronto-based five-piece – Molly Rankin (vocals, guitars) Kerri MacLellan (keyboards, vocals) Alec O’Hanley (guitars), Brian Murphy (bass) and Sheridan Riley (drums) – gave us an exciting contender for album of the year when ‘Antisocialites’ was released back in September. This was a band that not only avoided the dreaded ‘sophomore slump’ but actually seemed to thrive on the pressure – producing an incredible album that somehow managed to surpass an outstanding debut. Before the release, they played a sold-out show at Saint Luke’s in Glasgow to showcase the new material and were welcomed back with open arms from a supportive crowd that were hearing the songs for the first time. Despite the brilliant performance – as usual – and the enthusiastic response from the audience, I felt they were slightly hesitant about how the new album was arranged live and how it was received. They’d beaten second album syndrome but maybe a bit of ‘first tour of the album syndrome’ had kicked in.
On a Sunday night at a sold-out ABC they return to Glasgow with the album now in heavy circulation, the new songs settled comfortably in their live set and a fanbase hungry to sing along properly. This is the second tour for the album and another opportunity to show it off – and they do just that.
As a bold, black ‘ALVVAYS’ is projected onto the screen behind the stage the band walk out to a throbbing electro introduction that allows them to jump straight into the exhilarating ‘Hey’ before the comfortingly familiar jangle of ‘Adult Diversion’.
The crowd are obviously up for this and as the swirl of ‘In Undertow’ reaches its crescendo they sing along loudly – “time to let go” – before dancing to the punchy hooks of ‘Plimsoll Punks’. I’d bet there are few who can reach the same skyscraping heights of Rankin’s vocals to sing along with that one. There’s more upbeat, punky and surf-infused fare in the set with ‘Lollipop (Ode to Jim)’ and ‘Your Type’, but the sway of dream pop tracks like ‘Not My Baby’ and the darker ballad ‘Forget About Life’ sit perfectly alongside them. MacLellan’s backing vocals are key throughout – providing the necessary layers, calls and responses that allow them to replicate so successfully the intricacies of the albums.
“The last time I was here I made the mistake of confusing the words pants and trousers”, says Rankin, explaining that she’d had the misfortune of telling British crowds that she’d split a pair of pants on the last tour. Obviously trying to avoid similar errors, she says “I would also like to know how to pronounce the name of the street this venue is on” [Sauchiehall Street is pronounced sockeehall, for reference]. And that’s about it for conversation from Alvvays. This isn’t about on-stage chat or gimmicks or a flashy light show – despite the screen behind them – an Alvvays live set is just ridiculously catchy, witty songs and a thoroughly engaging performance.
The two much-loved odes to matrimony are played one after the other. The reluctance of ‘Atop A Cake’ – “how could I lose control, when you’re driving from the backseat?” – precedes the longing of ‘Archie, Marry Me’. Standing on a small flight of steps to the side, I can see the lit up faces of an audience completely lost in this band. The adoration is clear to see as hands are thrust into the air and the “hey hey, marry me Archie” chorus is shouted back at the stage.
I have seen Alvvays before a few times and, without exception, they enthral, entertain and enliven. Simply put, watching them makes me happy. Now, with the new songs at home in their set and a more synth-driven sound, they are somehow managing to get even better. As I’ve said before, Alvvays are just always that good.
Photos © Rhiannon Law