Live Review: The Wonder Years, O2 Institute, Birmingham 03/02/2017
Earlier this month, Birmingham's O2 Institute played host to one of the most eagerly anticipated alternative shows of the year so far; Philadelphia’s finest The Wonder Years landed in Birmingham whilst on their mammoth UK and European tour.
Despite touring a few months previous (in some of the most intimate venues in the UK), it’s been a while since these guys have actually reached the midlands whilst on their run. Joining the bill were everyone’s favourite Canadian punks PUP, alongside UK pop punks Trash Boat and Tiny Moving Parts, who are often contrary to a mixed set of genres, including mathcore and alt-rock.
You wouldn’t have known Tiny Moving Parts were the opening act upon arrival; frontman Dylan Mattheisen was nothing short of exuberant, which signified a rowdy crowd from the off. Even with a lyrical sentiment as dull as theirs, the room was crammed with enthusiasm, with Mattheisen beaming from start to finish. His ability with his guitar is inarguably incredible, keeping the flow with cousins William and Matthew Chevalier on the drums and guitar throughout. A massive sound from these three meant admiration shone through the crowd, who praised excessively after each hit. Ending with Dakota meant a mellow finale for these guys, whilst still sounding so precise and tight, with the added complexity of Mattheisen’s guitar. This band’s ability to make upsetting music incredibly delightful is something I haven’t seen before, but something I definitely want to see again.
UK pop-punk heavyweights Trash Boat have the added tie to TWY, with frontman Dan Campbell producing TB’s recent release, ‘Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through’. Despite only forming a few years previous, these guys have made a huge dint in the UK scene. Their set comprised of mainly hits from their debut, with an added old single for the loyal in the crowd. Personal favourite Catharsis gave the best response, with a few pits here and there from a generally unresponsive crowd. Despite the disheartening sense of disinterest, frontman Tobi Duncan still shot around the stage, with the band sounding as tight as usual. However, on a line-up as diverse and exciting as this, TB’s place on this bill was somewhat confusing, which signified a lacking crowd.
Despite not seeing PUP before, I knew I was in for a treat, with the current hype around them at its peak. Their anticipated performance meant the venue filled excessively in the space between bands, which isn’t surprising, with last summer’s release The Dream Is Over finding fame across the punk scene. Opener Guilt Trip grabbed my attention in the first few seconds, with such a solid riff opening the pits. Their set comprised of more hard hitting riffs, paired with frontman Steve Sladkowski’s punchy voice. Much like TMP’s set, the energy was apparent from start to finish, with an overwhelming sense of passion flowing through the band, as well as the crowd. Set finale DVP holds an undeniable sense of angst, again sending the crowd into a natural singalong, with beer and arms flung in the air. I’d say this set was possibly one of the best live shows I’ve seen for a long time; I already cannot wait to see these guys again.
With blue lights signifying their recent release No Closer to Heaven, The Wonder Years opened their set with the album name’s track, creating an intimate feel from the off, with the crowd silent in admiration of Campbell’s heartfelt rendition. It’s clear these guys are far from their pop-punk days, with the sent mainly comprising of newer (and arguably more sophisticated) hits with a few exceptions. Delivering some old hits created satisfaction from front to back, with fan favourite Dismantling Summer creating an echo behind Campbell’s flawless performance. Cigarettes and Saints is a force of sadness, with such a poignant atmosphere filling the venue. This level of sorrow is consistent for the next few songs, with There, There catapulting the crowd into an angst-powered sing along; finger pointing galore. The set is perfectly precise and tight throughout, fitting perfectly with each whole-hearted line Campbell delivered.
Campbell’s vocals were the selling point of the evening, with Passing Through A Screen Door igniting the passion in his performance once again, with the crowd screaming back each and every word. These songs showcased the intense love that these fans hold for this band, with some becoming emotional at Campbell’s sadness. Encore finale Came Out Swinging is the epitome of the pop-punk scene, with not one member of the crowd screaming back at Campbell. A night of intense emotion meant that I left the institute somewhat drained, but eager to delve deeper into each of these bands.
A truly incredible night from all angles; I cannot wait for more tour dates to emerge.
Words: Cait Briggs
Photography: Ryan Winstanley