The Great Escape: Pale Waves’ headline set was a dress rehearsal for arenas

The tour bus is normally a sign of where a band is at. Most new bands spend their time holed up in minivans racing up motorways up and down the country, trying to do literally anything to stave off the boredom between shows. But there are exceptions. During their recent debut US tour, Pale Waves ended up bouncing around the States in a bloody huge vehicle – one normally reserved for groups on their fifth or sixth album, not single number six. Pale Waves might not be there quite yet, but if their headline show at The Great Escape last night is any indication, nothing is going to be too big for them.

In fact, Horatio’s Bar – located at the end of Brighton’s legendary pier – feels like a bit of an underplay. They’ve already played arenas with labelmates The 1975, and are racing through some of the nation’s most coveted venues at lightning speed – so a 350-capacity room at the tastemaking new music festival feels like a little treat for those that squeeze in. Not much of a secret though, as it’s packed to rafters – despite the 11pm start.

It’s an intimate venue for a band with lofty ambitions. Each song in the set has the weight of a closing finale – from the lushness of opener ‘Television Romance’ through to banging new single ‘Kiss’, which harbours one of the strongest crowd reactions of the night. Old cuts like ‘The Tide’ and ‘Heavenly’ sound more powerful than ever now they’ve been given a shiny makeover, as does their whopping debut single ‘There’s A Honey’. There are unheard songs, too, like ‘18’, which boasts a chugging New Order-style synth line and another killer pop chorus. 

The real revelation isn’t just the songs – we knew they had them already – but more the band as performers. Lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie is morphing into an iconic band leader, hair flips and all, and drummer Ciara, bassist Charlie and guitarist Hugo move and groove like a stronger unit than ever before. Their tour buses, venues and songs are getting bigger by the second – everyone else is left playing catch-up.