Having released their 6th full length studio album ‘Sister Cities’ on April 6th, The Wonder Years made it to the UK to bring us the delights of their latest album. On tour with them came A.W (pronounced as awww according to lead TWY singer, Dan Campbell). We caught them on the second London date of their UK tour, having already played the same venue the night before, both having sold out.
Opening up the O2 Academy Islington was A.W, who you may recognise as Allison Weiss, who announced they are currently undergoing a change a of gender, hence the change of name. The crowd showed masses of support and A.W showed the same support back, for anyone going through the same thing, or for anyone within the LGBQT+ community. They made it clear that they are all worth something, they are all appreciated, and shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves.
Opening with ‘Making It Up’, A.W. starts with upbeat indie melodies that get the crowd moving and excited from the very start. It was clear that A.W. had some long time fans at the show, especially as they asked who listened to A.W. when they were Allison Weiss and cheers came from across the audience. A.W. sings about something many people in the room could relate to: anxiety and depression. They display this vulnerability through their songs that makes the crowd feel like they’re not alone with their thoughts, and what adds to the vulnerability is that it’s A.W. up on that big stage with nothing but their guitar.
There’s no backing band, yet they still own the entire stage. There’s something about someone singing a solo set that just draws the crowd in even more, and the fact A.W. was the sweetest person up on that stage really added to the likability, so despite being on the stage on their own, they definitely were not alone with support from around the room. Other songs A.W. played included ‘Over You’, ‘Golden Coast’ and to wrap things up, they played ‘New Love’ from their 2015 album, ‘New Love’. A.W. asked the crowd to sing along with them for the final song by giving directions to repeat the chorus after them. Just as the crowd were about to sing along on queue, Dan Campbell came on stage and sang the same lyrics with A.W. and the rest of the crowd. Arm in arm, this truly made for a beautiful way to end the set and put the crowd in a great mood ready for The Wonder Years to hit the stage.
During this tour, The Wonder Years announced they’d play an acoustic set and an electric set to make up for losing one of their supporting acts. This meant the band followed up A.W’s set with more acoustic music which followed on quite nicely and felt like a more natural progression. The band played older classics like ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’, ‘Don’t Let Me Cave In’, and even ‘Madelyn’ which the whole crowd went crazy for. People were screaming across the room in excitement as the band played the release from their 2013 album ‘The Greatest Generation’. It was a nice change from how, many of us, are used to seeing The Wonder Years play. It presented a much more relaxed and intimate atmosphere and was also great for those who may have missed their acoustic set with Banquet Records a few days earlier.
The electric set then progressed nicely on from that due to it of course being the same band, the only difference is that the music stops being acoustic. For this, the band played a lot more of their new songs from ‘Sister Cities’, opening with ‘Pyramids of Salt’ and later playing songs such as ‘It Must Get Lonely’, ‘Sister Cities’ and the first song on their new album, ‘Raining in Kyoto’ which Soupy gave a small speech about. He said of the song, that his time in Japan is what inspired it, and the one man that showed him kindness whilst he was there. The set also included classics such as ‘Coffee Eyes’, ‘Came Out Swinging’ and ‘The Devil in my Bloodstream’. Overall, the set had a good mix of old and new songs, which meant there would be something for everyone, even those that weren’t familiar with their newer tracks. This combined with their acoustic set made for one of their longest setlist’s to date, and made for a very happy crowd. The Wonder Years also had an amazing stage presence as always; spinning around the stage and giving the crowd something to watch, not just to listen to. This combined with Soupy talking to the crowd in-between songs really made for an engaging performance as he told stories about his times on tour and other parts of his life.