To some extent, Heather Baron-Gracie and Ciara Doran’s foursome could be considered protégées of Matt Healy; the latter produced their early singles and the combined cohort have shared the covers of magazines together, drawing the line of their kinship in thick kohl lines. Both share the same gleaming pop polish to their guitar tunes and an affection for eighties hooks writ large on the sleeve.
It’s all the more impressive then that they are able to transcend their influences on stage. At Sheffield’s Foundry, touring behind newly-released debut LP My Mind Makes Noises, Pale Waves already feel bigger than the stage, amped up to stadium level with their well-buffed sheen and towering sonic references.
From the opening gated drum crash on the shimmering Television Romance, they sound physically massive; a bubbling, bombastic combination of maudlin euphoria, akin to The Cure or Morrissey’s sunnier gems filtered through the prism of Taylor Swift’s imperious electropop phase. It is a nostalgic gateway drug of the fizziest, thrilling kind; a glossy, goth-decked trip destined surely for bigger things.
If Doran is the engine room, then Baron-Gracie is what gives Pale Waves their live personality in front of the heft. Whirring from side to side, guitar slung across her shoulders, she never plays coy; indeed, her open chirpiness sets her at paradoxically entertaining odds with the monochrome dress code and smoky lighting that surrounds her. She’s a friendly frontwoman; even during songs, like the motoring rush of Eighteen and the infectious dance-rock of Came in Close, she’s grinning with sincerity, a smile that widens every time the boisterous throng in front of her bounce around to every sparkling lick.
There are ebbs and flows; with just the one album on shelves, there is little sonic differentiation yet, save for the near-hymnal, icy ballad She. But even then, the quartet commit with such a near-flawless musicality that their well-honed skill is worth applauding.
“What does that sign even say?” Baron-Gracie laughs when a fan holds up a piece of paper before show-closer There’s a Honey. “Sticks? My eyes are so bad!” Regardless, Doran’s drumsticks find their way to the happy punter to a resounding cheer. They’re likely to only get louder from here on in.