Just a few weeks ago, Manchester’s Pale Waves were playing to sold-out stadiums, opening for Muse at Etihad Stadium in Manchester and the Olympic Stadium in London. Earlier this year, they were supporting labelmates The 1975 on their US tour, taking in some of the States’ largest venues. Not bad for a band with just one album to their name.
But their debut Glastonbury set was at the other end of the spectrum: no snaking bar queues or devastating sound delays on this one – instead, they’re in the more intimate settings of Glastonbury’s William’s Green. Located slap-bang in the middle of the sprawling site, the stage has become the go-to area for revellers on a Thursday night, with secret sets providing the perfect kick-off for the weekend.
After a day and a half of lounging around on Worthy Farm, the punters are rightfully gagging for some live music, and Pale Waves’ indie-pop tunes are a perfect appetite-pleaser, especially for fans of Sunday headliners The Cure, like kohl-eyed frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie.
The larger venues Pale Waves have been playing mean the band have needed to quickly become experts at perfecting a short set that can win over casual fans. Opening song ‘Eighteen’ catches the crowd in full voice, as the opening synth-line wobbles through a packed-out stage and chants of “here we fucking go” spread through the crowd. Television Romance’, a highlight from their 2018 debut album ‘My Mind Makes Noises’, is similarly punchy, as lead-singer Heather Baron-Gracie jokingly thanks the crowd for coming to their “secret set” (the announcement came hours earlier).
Early single ‘The Tide’ and album cut ‘Red’ provide Heather a chance to roam the stage and interact with the crowd – and her cult grows by the show. Though the band’s other material aligns closer to goth-poppers The Cure and touring buddies The 1975, Pale Waves pack a dancier-edge than either of those bands could ever manage. ‘Came In Close’ and ‘Noises’ hold big drops and chantable guitar-lines, hinting at an exciting avenue of songwriting for them to explore as album two begins to take shape.
Penultimate song ‘One More Time’ is similarly explosive, but it’s ‘There’s A Honey’, the band’s breakthrough debut single that provides one of the festival’s first arms-aloft moment. A second set billed for tomorrow night (June 28) on the legendary John Peel Stage will no doubt see many of the crowd back for more.
Manchester’s finest prove that they’re just at home in the trenches as they are right next to rock royalty. Big things beckon for this lot and wherever you see them, just know that you’re getting one of the most electrifying sets available in pop right now.
Pale Waves played:
‘Came In Close’
‘One More Time’
‘There’s A Honey’