Alvvays at Think Tank, Newcastle on 23rd January 2015

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In October 2014 Alvvays supported the excellent Real Estate at Riverside Newcastle and by all accounts they stole the show.  Fast forward to January 2015 and Alvvays have been heavily featured in the music press ‘best of’ lists for their brilliant eponymous debut album so arrive in toon with something of a reputation to live up to. Yet they are almost eclipsed by their own strong support act tonight; almost.

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Though from Nova Scotia, Alvvays are based in Toronto and said support are Toronto-ers (that’s the official term and I’m sticking by it) named Moon King. Remember that name because I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot of this band in the coming years. Boasting an enigmatic lead singing pair of Matthew Benjamin (also guitar) and Maddy Wilde (also bass) they have some great songs, an engaging and at times mesmerising stage prescence and the youth and vigour to take an audience by the scruff of their necks and drag them helplessly through an exhilirating 30+ minute set. At times sounding not unlike Pixies meets Janes Addiction meets Speedy Ortiz this band are now firmly on my radar. Only a couple of weaker songs let them down but it’s early days and they show immense promise.

So how were Alvvays not eclipsed by something so good? Well the answer is simple and it’s not that they performed better or entertained more; it’s the songs stupid. The band’s debut album is an indie rock/pop gem (equalled only in my opinion by the North East’s own Martha – Courting Strong) and if played with the kind of skill and enthusiasm that the record itself possesses then how could they go wrong. It is and they don’t.

Starting with a non album track ‘Your Type’ the band instantly tune into the happy mood of the sold out crowd and get feet tapping and heads nodding. Most of the set is dominated by songs from ‘Alvvays’ with ‘Next of Kin’, ‘The Agency Group’ and ‘Ones Who Love You’ (my favourite of the night) rattled off in quick succession with only minimal but charming banter from Molly Rankin between.

Things get turned up a notch with crowd favourite ‘Archie, Marry Me’ and there’s probably a few in the crowd wishing they were so named and ready with the ring. Rankin has a kind of ‘girl next door’ cuteness about her but she also delivers a mean vocal and is a competent wielder of the guitar. She is the main focus of attention apart from Alec O’Hanley on guitar with the other band members largely static (or hidden away behind the drums). That’s ok because the front pair carry the show well and never let their energy levels drop.

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Towards the end of the 50 minute main set Molly let’s slip that it’s keys player Kerri MacLellan’s 21st birthday. Audience members are invited to celebrate by purchasing the birthday girl her favourite tequila. Suitably that’s followed by the joyous ‘Atop a Cake’ before the show concludes with ‘Party Police’ and ‘Adult Diversion’. There’s the briefest of delays (Digital opens soon and there’s no time to waste) before the band return with a two song encore, one of which is a new song hinting at no new change of direction. At some future date they’ll have to develop their sound but for now more of the same goes down very well indeed.

Reviewer and Photographer: Russell Poad

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