Question: What’s better than THE WONDER YEARS playing an intimate show fresh from releasing a stellar album?
Answer: The Wonder Years playing TWO sets at the same show, obviously.
Better than that, you ask? An acoustic set bulging with followed by a full band set packed with Sister Cities hits and classics from their eclectic discography.
For two hours, the Pennsylvania pop-punk outfit wowed Leeds Uni Stylus with a setlist delving deep into their archive of angst-riddled anthems. Kicking things off with a nine track acoustic outing, Local Man Ruins Everything was the first to be reeled off – other classics, for example Don’t Let Me Cave In and Living Room Song were given acoustic renditions ahead of the full-band, full-wired headline length set.
While the acoustic set was greeted with polite clapping and head-nodding; it would not be a The Wonder Years show without the crowd bellowing every word back at the stage. After leaving the stage for enough time to grab a beer, literally that short, TWY returned with Pyramids of Salt, which was a perfect transition from tranquil to raucous.
The running joke throughout was frontman Dan Campbell appearing to dedicate tracks to the likes of promoters and audiences, before adding “…and because it is down here on the setlist,” and the plugging of latest LP, Sister Cities, was plugged frequently – both subtly, e.g. “this is from a record we put out recently,” and blatantly obviously in the form of advertising HMV have an exclusive version and that Campbell and co. LOVE HMV.
When you listen to it and discover Raining in Kyoto and The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me, which sounded exquisite in the flesh, it is no mystery why the band want fans new and old to grab a copy. Immensely proud, but confident enough to revisit Came Out Swinging, Thanks For The Ride and the emotionally vibrant Cardinals; The Wonder Years have cemented their status as one of the most important alt-rock bands of the past decade.
Leaving the stage once more before coming back on to inform the crowd that there is no fire exit by the stage so if there is a fire we’ll all be killed, followed by jokingly asking “did someone just cheer? That really hurt my feelings,” two of their biggest and boldest tracks concluded an evening of passion, intimacy and conviction. For me, it is the brutal honestly expressed in reflection that puts The Wonder Years at the top of their genre – penultimate ballad, Passing Through a Screen Door explores this with self deprecating lyrics of “Jesus Christ, I’m twenty-six. All the people I’ve graduated with all have kids, all have wives, all have people who care if they come home at night.”
This level of crippling honesty is evident in closing anthem, Cigarettes and Saints, and for the 700 or so fans at Leeds Uni Stylus, it was the final opportunity to scream “we’re no saviours, if we can’t save our brothers” as Campbell leapt around stage encouragingly, even twenty-three tracks later.
The Wonder Years have always left their mark on whichever stage they have graced, but this time around; via acoustic and a fully plugged set, it was that little bit sweeter. Although we may be No Closer to Heaven, we are definitely closer to crowning The Wonder Years as the most important acts of the decade.
SISTER CITIES IS OUT NOW – ORDER IT HERE, OR BUY UK EXCLUSIVE AT HMV