A staple of the festival circuit this summer, including stops at Glastonbury Festival’s John Peel stage and the end-of-season Reading and Leeds dual events, Toronto-based Canadian indie-pop troupe Alvvays brought their instantly pleasing brand of jangle-pop to the UK road once more, finishing up with a headline show at West London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire before a run of shows in their native Canada to close out what has been a busy year for the band.
Following the release of their critically acclaimed, eponymous debut studio album in July last year, Alvvays have worked tirelessly to get themselves in front of audiences across Canada, the US and Europe, but essentially “breaking” in the UK first, this has meant a number of UK stops.
While front woman Molly Rankin may hail from a legacy musical family – her father John Morris Rankin being part of Canadian musical family group The Rankin Family with his siblings – her honey-sweet vocals reflect only a twinge of the Celtic-Country legacy while carving out an instantly recognisable sound of her own. The band is also comprised of guitarist Alec O’Hanley, bassist Brian Murphy, drummer Phil MacIsaac and is rounded out by Rankin’s childhood friend and neighbour Kerri MacLellan on keyboards, sporting a great pair of spectacles.
Slowly walking on stage and taking their positions, the Canadian 5-piece, began their set with raucous 2-minute, non-album track Your Type before ploughing straight into first single and album opener Adult Diversion. Sporting a huge smile, Rankin addressed the crowd “We played here nine months ago, opening for our friends Real Estate. We would never have imagined headlining here so this is a really great moment for us.”
Bouncy anthem Next Of Kin and slower-paced The Agency Group followed before Rankin spoke of a moment a few days earlier where she got to meet personal hero, former Oasis mastermind Noel Gallagher. “Our tour manager told him that this band Alvvays really wanted to meet him. So we got to meet him for four seconds and shake his hand, and I sorta tried to hug him too!” Looking terrified as she went on to describe her next move, she continued “He kind of grimaced and said ‘What Always, like the shampoo?’ and I said ‘no, like the tampons!’ As he walked off he shouted back to me: ‘because you’re worth it!’
Getting back to business, Rankin introduced new song Hey before mellow album track Ones Who Love You slowed the pace of the set.
Continuing in a calmer vein, following track Dives had a large contingent of the audience swaying in unison to the tick-tock beat of it’s synthesised rhythm track while a lone cigarette lighter was lit towards the back of the crowd, it’s flame gently rocking along.
“This is great,” the 27-year-old front woman said of the West London crowd. “We thought there was a tube strike so no one would be here. Actually, we assumed there’d be a tube strike, it’s kind of romantic.”
Guitarist Alec went on to introduce fan favourite Party Police: “This is Molly and Kerri’s big moment.” From that point on it was hard to keep the crowd still, the mini mosh pit which emerged during new song New Haircut becoming a full blown bouncing and pushing affair during main set closer and biggest hit Marry Me, Archie.
The band then departed the stage for Rankin to re-appear a short while later for a solo rendition, sung to a backing track, of album track Red Planet, the Nova Scotia native’s voice on the slow-paced track oddly reminiscent of Pacific North-western singer-songwriter Laura Veirs.
The set was rounded out with a cover of English pop singer Kirsty MacColl’s 1985 single He’s On The Beach. With only a single 9-track, 33-minute album under their belts, it would have been tough for the janglists to carry their set on past an hour, but it was a blissfully pleasant live experience from a band that know how to make surprisingly sombre lyrics sound like a light summer breeze.
Photography & Review by Kalpesh Patel Alvvays @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 11/09/2015