In fluorescent light, antisocialites…” croons Molly Rankin during a superb live rendition of the track ‘Dreams Tonite’ from Alvvays’ most recent effort, Antisocialites. It’s easy to feel she’s describing the crowd as we stand captivated under dreamy stage lights with barely a sense of who’s around us.
The lyric especially resonates with me this time as I watch alone, my company for the evening stuck in traffic on their way to Camden’s legendary Roundhouse. The venue suits the band well: the five-piece fill the stage nicely, bedecked with vintage guitars, synths, and amps in front of a hypnotic projected backdrop that resembles a 70s Doctor Who title sequence.
A distinct step up in size from where they’ve performed on past UK tours, they’re playing the sold-out show with remarkable cool, their effort centred on nailing the technical aspects of their performance. And this too they do with ease, the whole band playing flawlessly, with each instrument clear and audible, and the backing vocals loud enough to beautifully mesh with Rankin’s lead. This is perhaps a testament to the quality of the sound team at Roundhouse as well as the band.
Either way, they sounded excellent. Even the subtle shifts in guitar tones and synth textures that made their latest record such an engaging cut compared to much of the dream pop scene were perceptible. In fact, the detail and clarity of Alvvays’ sound here rivals some of the live studio performances they’ve done recently for the likes of Seattle alt-rock radio station KEXP.
But Alvvays demonstrate that they are a great live act because they don’t stop at perfecting the technicality of the performance. Rankin’s quips and comments between tracks grab smiles as usual and continue to cement the view propagated by the band’s online following that Alvvays are the glorious pinnacle of Canadian-indie-pop-cuteness. At one point she asks the audience for recommendations of things to do during the band’s day-off in London: a refreshing disregard of the band’s growing fame. The 15 song setlist was centred on Antisociallites with nine of the album’s ten tracks performed (a treat for anyone who loved that record as much as I did) but kept things interesting with a performance of a new, currently unreleased song ‘Pecking Order’, as well as a cover of Elastica’s ‘Blue’ in the encore, which they adapted to their jangly sound surprisingly well.
In some ways it was a shame that the band’s dreamier tracks set such a relaxed atmosphere that the audience never fully reciprocated the band’s high energy on their heavier tracks, but all in all Alvvays delivered a fantastic performance that will see them continue to climb to the top of the indie scene.
Support Artist: Spinning Coin. Venue: Roundhouse. Date: 23rd February 2018. Ticket Price: £18.