The rapid popularity of Pale Waves is something you either get or don’t. The band are critical darlings of the UK rock scene and have quickly gained a fanbase overseas with only one EP to their name. Their meteoric rise has many wondering what it is about them that’s got fans going wild. Clearly, Chicago fans get what Pale Waves is about since they filled Lincoln Hall on Saturday night (April 7) for a sold-out show.
But before Pale Waves could rock the venue with their brand of melancholy pop, indie rockers INHEAVEN opened the show. With their dreamy sound and shoegaze attitude, the four-piece look and sound like a band from another era – think of Smashing Pumpkins or My Bloody Valentine. Their set, although brief, was energetic and successfully warmed up the crowd. As they played songs like “Baby’s Alright,” “Bitter Town,” “Regeneration,” and “Velvet” they remained upbeat and playful, especially bassist Chloe Little who’s overjoyed dancing you couldn’t stop watching. Everything from their vibe to their sound got you pumped up for the rest of the show but before you knew it, it was over.
After a quick set change, the lights dimmed and moody electronic music filled the venue. Out walked three-fourths of Pale Waves to loud cheers and screams. As they started “Television Romance” frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie sauntered out causing the screams to get louder and shriller. Like INHEAVEN, Pale Waves’ set was energetic, fun, and brief. Their upbeat, 80’s inspired music got everyone dancing while the singing along to the melancholy-tinged lyrics.
The band sounded as crisp and clean as they do on their EP never missing a beat. They played hit singles “The Tide,” “New Year’s Eve,” and “Heavenly” and filled out the rest of their 45-minute set with new songs “Kiss,” “Eighteen,” and “She,” the which latter was a highlight of the set since it showed a bit of departure from their established 1975 -esque sound. Oddly enough, the crowd already knew the words to the new songs. They practically sang all of Pale Wave’s set with Baron-Gracie proving their devotion for the band to be intense.
Baron-Gracie knows how to leave an impression. She commands your attention and knows what it takes to be a memorable frontwoman. She wiggled around stage pulling off her weird dance moves remaining stone-faced and nonchalant. Baron-Gracie also posed for cameramen in the crowd, waved to random fans, and even held one lucky person’s hand. The adulation for her is so intense and fervent. People reached out trying to get a piece of her or jumped and scream trying to get her attention. She has such a presence you can picture fans copying her style and moves similar to the Madonna phenomenon.
After nine songs, the night was over. Pale Waves was done. It left you wanting more, but for a new band that’s a good thing; you want to see what they’ll do next. Watching people file out of the venue, most of them wearing Pale Waves shirts, it’s clear something big is happening. It’s strange to think they grew most of their fan base off of a handful of songs. They haven’t even released an album, yet they’re treated with the same respect reserved for well-established acts.
So, what is it about Pale Waves that’s got people going wild? It’s got to be their catchy, yet gloomy songs. Their stage show is very straightforward – there’s no crazy antics, tricks, or gimmicks. Yet their songs have clearly struck a chord with people. They’re filled with hooks you can’t get out of your head, music you can easily dance to, and a sound that’s familiar to anyone who listens to bands like The Cure. They’re upbeat enough to have a good time, yet speak to your inner emo heart. They aren’t doing anything we haven’t heard before, but they’re having fun doing it. Seeing how many people are devoted to this band, they’ll be selling out large theaters in no time.