Music Critic Victoria Wilson attended Pale Waves’ live show, describing it as a thrilling performance

Written by Victoria Wilson

Pale Waves brought the love to Birmingham this Valentine’s Day with a spunky performance, which immaculately harnessed the energy of a 90s coming of age film. The atmosphere was electric, the crowd was electric, the guitars were electric… and then acoustic and then bass, as Pale Waves took us on a journey from angsty rock anthems to heart-warming love ballads to catchy indie tunes. 

Pale Waves brought the love to Birmingham this Valentine’s Day

The night was opened by BITTERS, a newly formed alt-pop project, led by singer songwriter Claudia Mills. I can only describe BITTERS and Pale Waves as the same text in a different font. Like the headlining band, BITTERS fuses 90s nostalgia with indie pop-rock tones, though their flowing riffs set against an energetic drumbeat, and Mill’s unique sassy voice set them apart. As BITTERS jammed through their singles ‘Sick’ and ‘…Stole Your Car,’ it became clear they are one to watch on the alternative scene. In the next few years, I expect I will be bragging to friends when BITTERS play on the radio that ‘I saw them before they became famous.’ Unfortunately, under doctors orders, Hot Milk were unable to join BITTERS in supporting Pale Waves. Though, after shuffling through their discography on Spotify, I will certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for an opportunity to see them live soon.

Under a dramatic display of strobe lightning, Pale Waves entered the stage to rapturous applause and burst into a fiery performance of hit ‘Change’ from their 2021 album Who Am I? I was struck by the dynamic and dimensional vocals of lead-singer Heather Baron Gracie, as she brought an emotional, dreamy, yet poignant and spirited edge to tunes such as ‘Kiss’ and ‘The Tide.’ Against a simple but aesthetic backdrop of a huge butterfly outline, Gracie owned the stage as she danced through the set list, handing out roses and bringing an infectious energy which spiralled during ‘One More Time,’ as she invited the audience to scream along in call and response to the catchy pleading chorus. Though the microphone placement or setting made her words blur together a little, Baron-Gracie engaged with the audience between songs in a way I believe all artists should, complimenting Birmingham and its Cadbury factory, reading fans’ signs, and generally advocating being gay.

The band sounded notably more vibrant and punchier live than on record

Pale Waves showed stamina, power, and passion as they rocked through 2021 songs ‘Easy’ and ‘Fall to Pieces,’ interspersed with classics ‘Eighteen’ and ‘Television Romance’ from their 2018 album My Mind Makes Noises. Drummer Ciara Doran’s talents really shone, as the band sounded notably more vibrant and punchier live than on record. Their performance of ‘Tomorrow,’ an inspiring, uplifting favourite of mine was a highlight for me, closely rivalled by ‘Red,’ during which the crimson lighting and cathartic chorus brought an intimate bubbly mood. Baron-Gracie then swapped to an acoustic guitar, as the audience raised their phone torches for ‘Odd Ones Out,’ a slower burning love song which set the perfect tone for Valentines.

As promised on their Instagram prior to the show, Pale Waves delivered an outstanding performance of their unreleased hit, ‘Jealousy.’ ‘Jealousy’ encompasses a heavier, more rock-inclined tone than most of Pale Waves’ discography. It illuminated the talents of guitarist, Hugo Silvani, and bassist, Charlie Wood, and left me feeling ecstatic for their third album, set to be released later this year. Hopefully we will hear more of this angsty anthemic style soon. After briefly exiting the stage, Pale Waves re-emerged to a liminal atmospheric poem blasting over the speakers, which built the tension before they launched into fan-favourite ‘My Religion,’ before thanking the crowd and finishing the evening perfectly with hit ‘There’s A Honey,’ which had the whole venue singing along. 

Pale Waves put on a thrilling performance which made me feel like I emerged into the closing scene of 10 Things I Hate About You or The Perks of Being A Wallflower; I am already counting down the days until I see them again at YNot Festival in the summer.


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